The capital of Spain since 1562, Madrid is located on the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula. Because of its central location and high altitude, the climate of Madrid is characterized by warm dry summers and cool winters. Madrid is a city of great monuments. Among its highlights are the medieval center dating back to the Habsburg Empire and the Prado Museum. Madrid is not just a cultural destination. It is also a lively metropolis with many pubs, cafes, discotheques and nightclubs open late into the night.
Portugal’s capital is an 18th-century city - elegant, open to the sea and carefully planned. Most places of interest are within easy walking distance. Rossio Square, the heart of Lisbon since medieval times, is an ideal place to start exploring. Many rebuilt houses with original façades provide stores and restaurants with modern interiors. High above Baixa is Bairro Alto - with its teeming nightlife. There are many monuments and museums, such as San Jeronimos Monastery, Royal Coach Museum and Gulbenkian Museum. Two well-known landmarks are the Monument to the Discoveries and the Tower of Belem. A statue of Christ looms above Europe’s longest suspension bridge. Madragoa, Bica and Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s older sections, offer a variety of sights: the Church of Sao Roque, with its beautiful tiles; St. George Castle, which offers a splendid view from its location above the Alfama quarter; the botanical gardens, featuring an unusual, cold greenhouse; and the cathedral, stunning with its Moorish design. Renowned Gulbenkian Museum is the cultural center of Portugal.
Seville is one place most beloved by visitors to Spain. Although today Moorish influence is architectonically most evident - Andalusia was occupied by Moors for about 800 years - it has been a cultural center long before. Seville was home of famous and infamous figures of history, the legendary "Don Juan" started from here to conquer the hearts of women across all Europe, while Columbus started from a port close to Seville to discover a new world. Prosper Merimée's "Carmen", who couldn't make her decision between the officer Don José and the bullfighter Escamillo, can still be watched today in opera houses. Seville is the very heart of Andalusian culture and the center of bullfighting and Flamenco music. Take it easy and interrupt sightseeing from time to time to have a few "tapas", those typical "small spanish dishes", and a glass of Sherry wine in one of the many bars in this city.
Coimbra is one of the most romantically beautiful cities in Portugal, and it's ancient and ornate buildings are rich in historical and cultural importance. Also, being a university town the city is inevitably dotted with cafe's, and lively night clubs. Beyond the university, Coimbra has much else to offer the visitor not least an array of medieval churches, ancient Roman archaeological sites, and Portugal's largest national park, the Serra da Estrela, a popular destination with all visitors.
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