Southern Spain Yesterday & Today: Madrid, Granada & Seville

From olive groves to world-renowned cathedrals, Southern Spain is a diverse region just waiting to be explored. Discover the very best of Madrid, Granada and Seville!
Rating (5)
Program No. 22175RJ
13 days
Starts at
Flights start at

At a Glance

Glorious Gothic cathedrals, intricately detailed synagogues, traditional Moorish neighborhoods and ancient Roman ruins: The icons of Southern Spain are a testament to its distinct history of conquest, culture and art. Discover the unique legacy and exuberant modern life in Madrid, Granada and Seville through expert-led walks, lectures and excursions. Join us to learn about some of the most diverse and exciting cities in all of Europe.
Activity Level
Let's Go!
Walking up to 3-4 miles per day, cobblestones and winding roads.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Discover a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alhambra Palace and Generalife gardens.
  • Explore the Museo Nacional del Prado, one of the world’s leading art museums.
  • Spend an exciting evening seeing Flamenco Dance in Seville. Meet a local expert for Alcázar Royal Palace visit.

General Notes

Program includes independent time to explore the city and several meals on your own. Group Leaders will provide directions for self-directed excursions. Suggestions for free-time activities provided in preparatory materials.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Deborah Cole
Deborah Cole is half-Spanish, half-American with a degree in history and geography, specializing in the Middle Ages and Spanish Colonialism. She also holds a master’s in international boundaries and a PhD on the Spanish southern border and Strait of Gibraltar and Alhucemas Sea. Deborah teaches high school history and geography for the regional government of Andalusia. In her free time, she loves to paint, hike, cycle, yoga and meditate.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Deborah Cole
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Judy Cotter
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Francisco Garcia
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The world's strangest borders Part 2: Spain (Video)
by Unknown
Video (00:05:31) There are some really weird borders in the world, and Spain is probably the cause of some of the strangest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6tJ-mvhznU
Only in Spain: A Foot-Stomping, Firecracker of a Memoir About Food, Flamenco and Falling in Love
by Nellie Bennett
In this exuberant memoir, an enthusiastic young Australian discovers a passion for Spanish culture (especially flamenco) as she explores Seville and Madrid. https://www.amazon.com/Only-Spain-Foot-Stomping-Firecracker-Flamenco/dp/1402293852/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=only+in+spain+a+foot-stomping&qid=1571307498&s=books&sr=1-1
Contemporary Spain: A Handbook
by Christopher Ross
This handbook to contemporary Spain and the Spanish language is packed with essential information on politics, economy, and institutions, covering the basics that are taken for granted by most Spaniards. Intended for readers without specialist knowledge in any of the subjects concerned, this is a valuable handbook for English-speaking students of Spanish. https://www.amazon.com/Contemporary-Spain-2Ed-Christopher-Ross-dp-0340762152/dp/0340762152/ref=mt_paperback?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=1571305398
Art of Spain (Video)
by BBC4
Video. Art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon travels from southern to northern Spain to tell the story of some of Europe's most exciting and vital art. Here, he presents an exploration of Moorish Spain. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b008wthr/episodes/guide 3 episodes
10 Things you MUST know before coming to Spain (Video)
by Unknown
Video (00:14:22) How does tipping work in Spain? What are tapas? What time to do shops open? What are the Spanish eating hours? Do Spaniards take siestas? James Blick answers the top 10 Spain travel tips so you can explore Spain like a local! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPBzlSvp_Nk
The New Spaniards
by John Hooper
Modern-day Spain is a country changing at bewildering speed. In less than half a century, a predominantly rural society has been transformed into a mainly urban one. A dictatorship has become a democracy. A once-repressed society is being spoken of as a future ‘Sweden of the Mediterranean’. John Hooper’s masterly portrayal of the country and its people explores the causes behind these changes. Focusing on issues that affect ordinary Spaniards – from crime to education and from gambling to changing sexual mores – it paints a fascinating picture of contemporary Spanish society. This revised, updated edition incorporates some 70,000 words of fresh material and three new chapters, including sections on immigrants and Romanies and the Spaniards’ efforts to come to terms with their past. It is the essential guide to understanding twenty-first-century Spain: a land of paradox, progress and social change. https://www.amazon.com/New-Spaniards-2nd-John-Hooper/dp/0141016094/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1JF800OQAF8QI&keywords=the+new+spaniards&qid=1571309508&s=books&sprefix=the+new+span%2Cstripbooks-intl-ship%2C212&sr=1-1
The Shadow of the Wind
by Carlos Ruiz-Zafón
‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is set in postwar Barcelona. Accompany the child Daniel Sempere in his quest and immerse yourself in 1945 Spain. Whether you want to read the whole tetralogy (completed with ‘The Angel’s Game’, ‘The Prisoner of Heaven’ and ‘The Labyrinth of Spirits’) or just the one, this book is a must to gauge what life was like in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and under Franco’s dictatorship. https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Wind-Carlos-Ruiz-Zaf%C3%B3n/dp/0143034901/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+shadow+of+the+wind&qid=1571309058&s=books&sr=1-1 Also available as audiobook: https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Wind-Carlos-Ruiz-Zafon/dp/0143057812/ref=tmm_abk_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1571309058&sr=
Reconquista - The full story (Video)
by Unknown
Video (01:17:01) The history of the Reconquista was a 781 year medieval journey. It was the story of the Christian War of Reconquest against Islamic Spain. A struggle that was not always constant or consistent. The Christian kingdoms of the northern Iberian Peninsula held their ground, clinging to survival. In time, as the initiative shifted and the great Caliphate fell; Asturias, Leon, Castile, Navarre, Aragon, and Portugal would have the chance to press the offensive. They were hampered along the way by the Almoravids and later the Almohads - and of course fought amongst themselves. This video covers the full history up till the year 1212 and the famous Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9UnQa0m8pQ
Doves of war: Four women of Spain
by Paul Preston
Much has been written about the Spanish Civil War's effects on Spain and its citizens, but little attention has been paid to the women involved in the conflict. In this beautifully written biographical work, Paul Preston tells the forgotten war stories of four exceptional women whose lives were starkly altered by the war. The portraits in this provocative, yet objective volume mirror the war itself, with the left pitted against the right. On the left side are Margarita Neken, the revolutionary feminist, writer, and politician; and Nan Green, the communist nurse who left her children behind in England to fight against fascism alongside her husband in the International Brigades. On the right side are Mercedes Sanz Bachiller, the most powerful woman in the Francoist zone; and Priscilla Scott-Ellis, the wealthy English socialite who, lured to Spain by love, stayed on to help the fascist war effort as a nurse on the front lines. https://www.amazon.com/Doves-Five-Women-Spanish-Civil/dp/0006386946/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1571305988&sr=8-1
A day in the Life of Spain
by David Cohen and Rick Smolan
This splendidly illustrated volume in the Day in the Life series and the first to focus on a European country depicts Spain on May 7, 1987, as captured by 100 international photojournalists. The photographs contrast modern and traditional life: the Iberia Airlines shuttle between Madrid and Barcelona that carries 3000 passengers a day; farm laborers and fishermen; topless sunbathers; a punk-rocker; men playing dominoes; the stock exchange; produce markets and coal miners; steelworkers and gypsy children; an assembly line and a subway-turnstile jumper; a bullfighting school and a flamenco dancer; windmills turned into weekend homes. Among the 275 color and black-and-white photographs, some images are brilliantly artistic, others amusing, moody, throbbing with hustle, charming or solemn, providing a lively close-up of a day in the life of this Iberian land. https://www.amazon.com/Day-Life-Spain-Rick-Smolan/dp/0002179679/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=a+day+in+the+life+of+spain&qid=1571304931&s=books&sr=1-1
Ghosts of Spain: Travels through Spain and its silent past
by Giles Tremlett
The appearance, more than sixty years after the Spanish Civil War ended, of mass graves containing victims of Francisco Franco’s death squads finally broke what Spaniards call “the pact of forgetting”—the unwritten understanding that their recent, painful past was best left unexplored. At this charged moment, Giles Tremlett embarked on a journey around the country and through its history to discover why some of Europe’s most voluble people have kept silent so long. Ghosts of Spain is the fascinating result of that journey. In elegant and passionate prose, Tremlett unveils the tinderbox of disagreements that mark the country today. Delving into such emotional questions as who caused the Civil War, why Basque terrorists kill, why Catalans hate Madrid, and whether the Islamist bombers who killed 190 people in 2004 dreamed of a return to Spain’s Moorish past, Tremlett finds the ghosts of the past everywhere. At the same time, he offers trenchant observations on more quotidian aspects of Spanish life today: the reasons, for example, Spaniards dislike authority figures, but are cowed by a doctor’s white coat, and how women have embraced feminism without men noticing. Drawing on the author’s twenty years of experience living in Spain, Ghosts of Spain is a revelatory book about one of Europe’s most exciting countries. https://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Spain-Travels-Through-Silent/dp/0802716741/ref=sr_1_1?crid=29EZYTAR3HIV6&keywords=ghosts+of+spain+travels+through+spain+and+its+silent+past&qid=1571306235&sprefix=ghosts+of+spain%2Caps%2C221&sr=8-1
The Silence of Others (Video)
by Almudena Carracedo & Robert Bahar
Video The Silence of Others reveals the epic struggle of victims of Spain’s 40-year dictatorship under General Franco, who continue to seek justice to this day. Filmed over six years, the film follows victims and survivors as they organize the groundbreaking “Argentine Lawsuit” and fight a state-imposed amnesia of crimes against humanity, in a country still divided four decades into democracy. https://thesilenceofothers.com
The History of Spain: Land on a Crossroad (Video)
by Unknown
Video. Spain has played a unique and pivotal role in Western civilization. It has historically stood at a critical crossroad—a crossroad of geography, of cultures, of religions, of ideas, of trade, and more. Spain’s strategic location, through the centuries, has made it a magnet for multiple different peoples, and it has participated in and witnessed numerous major shifts, trends, and historical moments. https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/the-history-of-spain-land-on-a-crossroad.html 24 lectures (average 30 minutes each)
We saw Spain die: Foreign correspondents in the Spanish Civil War
by Paul Preston
The war in Spain and those who wrote at first hand of its horrors. From 1936 to 1939 the eyes of the world were fixed on the devastating Spanish conflict that drew both professional war correspondents and great writers. Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Josephine Herbst, Martha Gellhorn, W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Kim Philby, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, Cyril Connolly, André Malraux, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and others wrote eloquently about the horrors they saw at first hand. Together with many great and now largely forgotten journalists, they put their lives on the line, discarding professionally dispassionate approaches and keenly espousing the cause of the partisans. Facing censorship, they fought to expose the complacency with which the decision-makers of the West were appeasing Hitler and Mussolini. Many campaigned for the lifting of non-intervention, revealing the extent to which the Spanish Republic had been betrayed. Peter Preston's exhilarating account illuminates the moment when war correspondence came of age. https://www.amazon.com/We-Saw-Spain-Die-preston-paul/dp/1845299469/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1D3JDK03444NF&keywords=we+saw+spain+die&qid=1571309824&s=books&sprefix=we+saw+spai%2Cstripbooks-intl-ship%2C212&sr=1-1
Arabs in Spain (Video)
by Unknown
Video (00:29:11) Award winning documentary. Fascinating and beautifully shot documentary which examines the spread of Islam and how its crusaders finally took most of Spain, arriving from Morocco in 711. In one summer the "Arabs had taken half of the peninsular and in five years controlled almost all of the country". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gqrBXG6ec4
Rick Steve's Andalucía: The best of southern Spain (Video)
by Rick Steve
Video (00:54:55) Join Rick as he weaves Andalucía's rich mix of culture, cuisine, history, and natural wonders into a 60-minute special. The hour includes the major cities of Sevilla, Córdoba, and Granada; flamenco, sherry, and horses; dramatic white-washed hill towns; and fun in the Costa del Sol sun — plus a dash of Britain in Gibraltar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP93PQMmXsc
The Struggle for Catalonia: Rebel Politics in Spain
by Raphael Minder
Analyses with rare impartiality what sets the Catalans apart from Spain, and how the separatist debate is playing out. Every year on 11 September, Catalonia celebrates its Diada, its National Day. But the Diada of 2012 was like none other, as an enormous crowd calling for Catalan independence took over the heart of Barcelona. Despite the carnival-like atmosphere that day, the people were very serious about their demands. On the back of this show of force, Catalonia's governing politicians turned secessionist claims into a new headache for a government in Madrid that had only just survived a near-meltdown of Spain's financial system. Four years later, the separatist challenge has neither come to fruition, nor faded away. This book looks at how and why Catalan separatism reached the top of Spain's political agenda, as well as its connection to the broader European malaise generated by flawed political responses to financial and other crises. Through extensive travel and reporting, as well as over fifty interviews with leading Catalan personalities, Raphael Minder explains how Catalans feel about their economy, history and culture, and how secessionist forces have tried to reshape Catalan identity. https://www.amazon.com/Struggle-Catalonia-Rebel-Politics-Spain/dp/1849048037/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1QD8S4TS1GLX7&keywords=the+struggle+for+catalonia+rebel+politics+in+spain&qid=1571309637&s=books&sprefix=the+struggle+for+cata%2Cstripbooks-intl-ship%2C215&sr=1-1
Cataluña: A region apart (Video)
by BBC
Video (00:24:42) This forgotten BBC documentary from 1979 was the final part of a 5-part series entitled ‘Realidades de España’ – Spanish Realities. It was uncovered by writer and chemical engineer Josep Grau-Bové who obtained it on VHS video from a friend in Glasgow. He digitised and uploaded it to YouTube in the hope that more people would see it. In the last two years 41,548 people have (at the time of writing). It is fascinating that this documentary from 35 years ago, made only 4 years after Franco’s death, should end up on the internet for a new 21st century audience. Even more fascinating that the story it tells has not moved on very much at all in the following 35 years. Of course Franco’s death was a major event in recent Catalan history. The restoration of the Generaliltat followed two years later, with the statute of autonomy drawn up in 1979, and its subsequent revision in 2006. How close are we to an independent Catalonia? Is Catalonia’s destiny to be part of a federalised Spain and that’s it? Only time will tell of course. But watching this documentary from 1979 makes the Catalan political situation all the more interesting from an outsider point of view. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=mt31tCJdsLE
The Time in Between: A Novel
by María Dueñas
The Time in Between takes place in the 1930s and follows the story of a young Spanish woman who is suddenly abandoned by her lover in Morocco and has to forge a new life and identity for herself there. The Spanish Civil War is about to erupt and she cannot return home, so she begins using her skills as a seamstress to support herself. She soon becomes wrapped up in the politics of the time when she is approached to become a spy for the Allied Forces. While the first part of the book doesn’t take place during Spain, it’s a different perspective of the Spanish Civil War, written by a female Spanish author as opposed to an expat man. https://www.amazon.com/Time-Between-Novel-Maria-Duenas/dp/1451616899/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1571309683&sr=1-1

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