Winter breaks in Madrid and Barcelona

It might be getting chilly outside, but that's no reason to stay cooped up inside. Spain's big cities offer a huge range of tourist attractions and plenty of leisure activities to make the most of your free time, even when the temperature drops. In addition to all the usual must-sees in Madrid and Barcelona, why not head off the beaten track and check out some of these more niche attractions? 

Spain's big cities offer a huge range of tourist attractions and plenty of leisure activities to make the most of your free time.


San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts

Feast your eyes on works of art spanning the 16th to 20th century, including Spanish, Italian and Flemish masterpieces. Goya was a member as of 1780 and the Museum still has 13 of his paintings, including two self-portraits, the Bullfight, portraits of Moratín, Juan de Villanueva and the actress La Tirana and the well-known depiction of a Madrid carnival, Burial of the Sardine. You'll also observe works by masters such as Velázquez, Rubens, Sorolla, Murillo, Zurbarán and Juan Gris. 

Convento de las Carboneras ( 17th century).

This convent of cloistered nuns owes its name to an image of the Virgin Mary found at a coal yard and donated to the convent. The site, a beautiful example of early Madrid Baroque architecture, features the only church left in Madrid where the chancel is raised above ground level. The nuns at the convent sell sweet treats and biscuits through a little hatch; you pop your cash on the tray and it rotates to produce your treats from the other side. You'll find them in Madrid's Calle del Codo, near Plaza de la Villa. 

The Tropical Garden at Atocha (1992).

Encased in a structure crafted from iron and glass, the Tropical Garden is in the old passenger building at Madrid - Puerta de Atocha station. The garden covers over 4,000 metres and has more than 7,000 plants representing 260 different species from the Americas, Asia and Australia. 

A rooftop coffee break.

There are plenty of rooftop bars in Madrid where you can enjoy a birds-eye view of the city with a coffee, or something stronger. Gran Vía (Hotel Pestana CR7, Le Tavernier, Hotel Vincci Capitol and Hotel Room Mate Macarena), Calle de Alcalá and the local area (Círculo de Bellas Artes, Real Casino de Madrid, Four Seasons and Galerías Canalejas), Calle de la Montera (El Jardín Secreto), the Puerta del Sol (Taberna Puertalsol and Zap Coffee), Plaza del Callao (El Corte Inglés), Plaza de España (Hotel Riu) and the Madrid City Hall at the Palacio de Cibeles are just a handful of examples. 

San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts.


The remains of the Temple of Augustus ( 1st century AD).

Nestled in the internal courtyard at the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya, at the heart of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter, are  these four impressive, 9-metre high Corinthian columns. Three of the columns were found in the late 19th century during construction of the Centre Excursionista, and the fourth was previously on display in Barcelona's Plaza del Rey.

Montjuic Cemetery

This was Barcelona's first cemetery and is home to some impressive works of art. It boasts pantheons and sculptures by great sculptors and architects, with Modernist, Gothic and neo-Egyptian pieces featuring prominently. Just next to the entrance to the cemetery is Europe's only funeral carriage museum.

The Monastery of Pedralbes.

Located in the upper part of the city, it was inaugurated in 1326 as home to a community of Poor Clares, and is now one of the most celebrated examples of Catalan Gothic architecture. The site feels like a little village in itself, with its own church and the monastery. The most striking feature, though, is the cloister. One of the largest in the world, it comprises two galleries and 26 columns flanking a beautiful garden with a well and a pond.

Mossèn Costa i Llobera Gardens.

One of Europe's biggest cactus gardens. Have a wander and check out some of the most exotic plant species on the planet, from Africa, America and Oceania.

Head off the beaten track in beautiful Barcelona.

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