Sunset over the Alhambra
As dusk falls over Granada and the bustle of tourists dies away along the streets of the Albaicin, the great rosy-gold complex of the Nasrid palace with its chambers and courtyards where kings and their families lived and loved stands silent and ageless. An inspiration to writers and artists through the centuries, who knows how the breath-taking sight might inspire you?
The Prado: feast your eyes
From The three graces by Rubens to Las Meninas by Velazquez; from Fra Angelico's Annunciation to Goya's Majas – both clothed and nude. These are just a few of the important works to be seen at the Prado in Madrid, one of the finest art museums in the world. Here, European art is on display in all its glory.
Jerte, a valley dressed in white
We're all used to the idea of spring painting the countryside in shades of green, but in this valley in Extremadura, central Spain, the better weather brings with it a stunning display of white. These are not snow-covered mountains, but hills dotted with cherry trees – over a million trees in full bloom. As with most of Mother Nature's performances, the spectacle lasts only a few days, and the timing isn't exactly predictable. It usually takes place in the second half of March, or in early April, and the locals make the most of it with the fiesta of the Cherry Trees in Blossom.
The flavours of Iberia Mention the Sierra de Aracena to a Spaniard and their mouth will start to water as the words conjure the unforgettable taste of one of Spain's best types of jamon iberico – the cured Iberian ham for which the country is internationally renowned. In the southern region of Andalusia, the town of Aracena is a perfect place to sample this ambrosia for yourself, or in nearby Jabugo, the 'capital' of pata negra ham.
Sampling the delights of San Sebastian
The Spanish custom of tapas has spread beyond the country's borders, but there's nothing like doing a thing in situ. In San Sebastian, on the northern coast near France, the art of the pintxo has a long and honourable history. Salt cod, anchovies, queso fresco - the local white, unripened cheese – with paprika, peppers stuffed with mushrooms... you'll find all these and other delicacies lined up on the bars of the traditional taverns in the old quarter, ready for you to discover a world of new and tempting flavours.
Hands on fun at the Valencia Science Museum
With the motto 'it's forbidden not to touch, not to think and not to feel', you can be sure a day at the Science Museum at Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences is going to be a fully interactive experience of sensations and discovery. One of the world's largest Foucault pendulums is only one of many reasons to visit.
The soothing indulgence of oleotherapy
Maybe you expected to find olive oil under 'taste'. It would certainly deserve a place there, but the versatile olive is the foundation of a whole culture. All across Spain, traditional olive presses have been converted into charming boutique hotels where oleotourism is the new watchword. Not only can you learn about the production process, savour the produce of the local olive estates, wander among the olive groves and learn to cook with this liquid gold, you can also indulge in luxury spa treatments, from massages to facials.
A night at Barcelona's Palau de la Musica
A classical concert, flamenco, zarzuela – the traditional Spanish light opera – a live performance by the latest star to sparkle on the international circuit... the Palau de la Musica has been the centre of concert-life in the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona for over a century. The Catalonian Modernist style building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site designed by the architect Lluis Domenech i Montaner, boasts marvellous stained glass and a riot of relief ornamentation, making any evening spent here a treat for the eyes as well as the ears.
Flamenco – live!
The sound of Spain par excellence must surely be flamenco, an 'artistic expression fusing song, dance and musicianship' that has been recognised by UNESCO and added to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. All over Spain you will find places to experience this almost indefinable genre, but its true home is in the south; seek out the duende in Andalusia, Murcia or Extremadura.
Gardens and parks
In many parts of Spain, spring is brief, a few short days of calm and warmth that form a bridge between the ravages of winter and the excesses of the summer. But if you can catch those few days and find a park or city square where the mimosa is coming into bloom and all the fresh scents of new life and growth are being tempted out into the air, you won't easily forget it. And those same parks and gardens have much to offer at other times of year: the scent of pine resin rising in the heat of summer, the heady smell of eucalyptus, lavender borders a-buzz with bees, rosemary crushed between your fingers...
The scent of gunpowder
Every town and village across Spain has its own patron saint whose feast day must be celebrated in style – usually with fireworks. And nowhere does fireworks better than Valencia when it celebrates the coming of spring and St Joseph's Day on March 19th with the annual Fallas – a fire festival like no other. Day and night, your ears will be assaulted by the sudden explosions of firecrackers, and the whole city becomes musty with the smell of gunpowder. But there's the colour and tumult of the parades and processions, the fragrance of freshly cooked pastries, floral offerings to the Virgin, bonfires, music and dancing... look, touch, taste, smell, listen: this is Spain at its most sensational.