Spain is a country overflowing with history, art, culture, cuisine and natural beauty leaving no shortage of thing to see and do! Here are some of the popular places to visit and activities to do during your time on the IVHQ Spain program.
In and Around Madrid
Food, Tastings and Tapas!
Madrid’s cuisine is a melting pot of flavors that has been shaped over the centuries by people from all over Spain. Once it became the capital, Madrid’s population boomed as Spaniards from all over the country came in search of a better life. They brought with them their regional recipes and made Madrid the best place in Spain to taste the diverse flavors of the country. Volunteers can experience the diversity of Madrid cuisine can through a 4 hour walking tour, exploring the old town of Madrid and popping in and out of family run eateries (many over 100 years old) and tasting their homemade specialties.
Volunteers can also discover Madrid after dark, on an enchanting Tapas, Taverns & History Tour. Visit tapas bars while also exploring the old city, local sights and taking in the city’s culture and history. Nothing beats experiencing delicious tapas, Spanish wine, culture, sights and history - it’s the best way to understand and appreciate all that Madrid has to offer!
El Escorial and its Monastery
El Escorial is a must see for volunteers and the beautiful monastery is just one part of the experience. The complex is also made up of a royal palace, a school and a museum. El Escorial was built in the 16th century under an architect who worked on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and was intended by King Phillip II to demonstrate Spain’s influence on the Christian world. This is one of the most popular day trips from Madrid and is easy due to the large number of local trains which run every day.
Castle Of Manzanares El Real
No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to the Castle of Manzanares el Real. This castle is an incredible 15th century fortress which is also one of the best preserved castles in the Madrid area. The six-floor castle presents an impressive picture and is a fantastic example of Spanish military architecture. The castle is now also home to a museum on Spanish castles and is located in the foothills of the Guadarrana mountains about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Madrid.
Alcalá de Henares
There are no excuses for volunteers to miss a visit to Alcalá de Henares as this is one of the easiest day trips from Madrid. The pace is much slower than Madrid, making this a relaxing escape from the bustling capital. Alcalá is a small city, but with incredible heritage and an impressive history. There are many beautiful places to visit around town and it’s also the hometown of writer Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. Alcalá de Henares is a must do – it’s quaint with classic charm and also famous for its university.
Toledo is an absolute must for volunteers who love history and culture. It’s an ancient city with a blend of Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures. While exploring Toledo it’s possible to find buildings that were used by all three religions at different periods over the centuries. The Alcazar and Cathedral are must-sees in Toledo, with marzipan being the local delicacy to eat.
Volunteers with an interest in architecture and history should definitely make time for a trip to Segovia. Another ancient city in Spain, Segovia over the centuries has belonged to the Celts, Romans, Islamists and Christians. The picturesque, old walled city is home to a number of Romanesque churches from the 11th and 12th centuries, Renaissance fortresses, palaces and residences. A must see is the Gothic Cathedral built during the reign of Charles V, constructed with beautiful golden stone. The Aqueduct of Segovia is an architectural marvel that presumably dates back to the first century and is composed of 25,000 blocks all held in place without any cement! Segovia is also home to a 12th century “Alcazar” or fortress, which belonged to the family of Queen Isabel, crowned Queen of Castille in Segovia, who later helped finance Columbus’s voyage to the New World. This castle was refurbished in the 18th Century into a dreamlike castle which was used by Disney as one of the models for the Cinderella castle.
For an experience unlike any other, volunteers should venture to the medieval city of Cuenca which offers sights that travelers won’t see every day, namely Casas Colgadas which are houses hanging from cliffs! Cuenca is an amazing place to soak up Old World charm, exploring the medieval streets which are steeped in character and taking in why the town has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage for its wealth of monuments. The historic centre overlooks a rocky canyon as well as the ruins Kunka fortress, its ancient Moorish castle, the ancient Kunka fortress. While in Cuenca make sure to visit the Cathedral, Provincial Museum, Casa del Curato, Diocesan Museum and the Bishop’s Palace.
If you would like more details on any of these locations or activities, our local team in Spain can assist you once you are registered onto the IVHQ Spain program.
To apply for the program or explore the volunteering opportunities available in Spain, visit our Volunteer in Spain page.