MADRID, Spain, April 8, 2005 – Dramatic museums and artfully designed expansions, restored waterfronts and revived city centers and ground-breaking performing arts centers and spectacular cultural complexes are opening all over Spain. The country is blossoming and tourism officials plan to welcome many more visitors this year. Heralded as Europe’s new cuisine capital, foodies are flocking to sample the flamboyant dishes of chefs in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and San Sebastian. Spanish wines have gained a strong international following and world renowned architects are designing wineries to accommodate wine-loving travelers. “There are plenty of good reasons to visit Spain this year, said Javier Piñanes, the director of the Tourist Office of Spain in New York. “We have several world-class events and there is a wide variety of well-priced packages from the U.S. this year. And of course, with our always sunny skies and warm temperatures, we have some of the best weather in Europe.”
Here’s a look at what’s happening in cities and regions around Spain this year:
Barcelona is celebrating “Gastronomic Year 2005, the Year of Food, Cuisine and Gastronomy” which kicks off this month and runs through February 2006. Cooking demonstrations, tastings, appearances by some of the world’s most celebrated chefs, street fairs, gastronomic walking tours, fiestas, exhibitions and lots of delicious Spanish food will be on hand for visitors. Hosting more than 150 events, Barcelona will be a food
lover’s paradise as the city pays homage to Catalan cuisine and June 5, the Nit of Sant Joan, the anniversary of the city’s patron saint, will see an extravagant “Cava in the Sky” when 1,000 bottles of cava are opened simultaneously. www.barcelonaturisme.com
With the reopening last December of the National Museum of Catalan Art or Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), visitors to Barcelona can see 1000 years of art gathered from several collections. Now housed under one roof in the emblematic 1929 Palau Nacional, on the mountain of Montjuïc, its vast collection of 236,000 works – 1,315 on permanent display – constitutes the world’s most extensive in Romanesque art. www.mnac.es. This year Barcelona is also the setting for the “Year of Books and Reading” that will feature literary walks, exhibitions, lectures and readings. Articket BCN offers visitors free or reduced entrances and deals citywide and a Montjuïc card allows entrée to 8 attractions. The city’s waterfront area around Sant Adrià de Besòs was revitalized for the mega Forum 2004 with a dramatic glass convention center – to be southern Europe’s largest – by Josep Llis Mateo and Herzog & de Meuron’s blue triangular Forum building. Parks, public beaches, new hotels and a marina will all be part of the $2.3 billion waterfront renewal. www.barcelona2004.org
Bilbao
Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim put this northern Spanish city on the world’s culture map. In 2002 Spanish architects María Dolores Palacios and Federico Soriano won the prize for their Palacio Euskalduna, as the world’s best congress center. Now rising on the waterfront between the two is the 86-acre Abandoibarra with a new Starwood hotel by Ricardo Legorreta, the Zubiarte shopping and entertainment complex by Robert Stern and a 33-story tower by César Pelli. www.bilbaoria2000.com. Meanwhile, with Bilbao and the Basque Country competing with Barcelona and Catalonia for the mantle of Spain’s most inventive cuisine, the city will celebrate “Best* Bilbaoestimula’05, Basque Gastronomy Year” with 40 wine tastings, gastronomic routes, cooking demonstrations, film showings and photography and art exhibitions – all with food-related themes. www.bilbaoestimula.com
Castile-La Mancha
The region that was home to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza is spending $66 million to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes’ acclaimed masterpiece. An extensive calendar of more than 2,000 art exhibitions, concerts (from early music and symphonic and chamber orchestras to rock), dance performances from classical to contemporary, theatre and other activities are in store for visitors. In the summer, 30 Quixote-themed plays will be performed in the region’s open air theatres and town squares. Last year Castile-La Mancha established the Route of Don Quixote, at 1000 km Europe’s longest ecological route, which winds its way through 105 villages. www.donquijotedelamancha2005.com
Galicia
The monumental City of Culture of Galicia (CCG), a $125 million complex designed by Peter Eisenman is rising outside the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela. The Galician History Museum, the Music Theatre, the Galician Library and Newspaper Archive, the Building of New Technologies and Arboretum of Galicia will draw visitors when it is completed by the end of the year. Tourism officials expect opera, symphony orchestras and ballet companies from around the world to perform in Galicia’s largest performing arts theatre. By “transposing” the historic core of Santiago on to nearby Monte Gaiás, Eisenman is transforming the 173-acre site into a “magic mountain” of undulating buildings – clad in native stone and carved into the terrain – linked by five tree-lined thoroughfares replicating those in the city’s old quarter and cut through by an arroyo-like plaza. www.cidadedacultura.es
La Rioja
An impressive new wine museum, Museo de la Cultura del vino has been opened by the Vivanco family (www.dinastiavivanco.com) and trendy new wineries designed by world famous architects like Santiago Calatrava and Frank Gehry are sprouting up to accommodate visitors to the region. One of Spain’s largest wine companies, Bodegas and Bebidas wanted an iconic building for their new wine. For Bodega Ysios Calatrava designed an undulating low-rise building that fits into the landscape and is surrounded by reflecting pools with its southern façade clad in horizontal cedar planks to resemble wine barrels. Gehry’s spectacular construction rising in the Marques de Riscal Vineyard is an explosion of gold, silver and red ribbons of steel and titanium, inspired by the rich tones of the region’s landscape. Joining the two 19th century sandstone buildings of the old winery, the new structure will house a restaurant, tastings rooms and a hotel run by Starwood.
Madrid
The city’s “art triangle” or “walk of art” is expanding. Two years ago the city’s three leading museums – all on or near the Paseo del Prado – announced expansions and two have been completed so far. Two restored late 19th century buildings were linked to the adjoining museum in the Villahermosa Palace in the Thyssen Bornemisza’s $46 million expansion directed by Manuel Baquero and Francesc Plá of BOPBAA Studio. www.museothyseen.org The eye-catching $80.6 million addition for the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS) by French architect Jean Nouvel created about 290,000 more square feet in three new buildings. www.museoreinasofia.mcu.es. The Museo del Prado is undergoing the most extensive expansion in its 200-year history beginning with the $62 million restoration of the 17th century cloister of the church of Los Jerónimos by Pritzker prize-winning Rafael Moneo that will be ready by the end of this year. www.museoprado.mcu.es
Valencia
The Palace of the Arts, or Palau de les Arts, a ground-breaking performing arts center is set to open in Spain’s third largest city in October. Designed by native son Santiago Calatrava, the newest jewel in Valencia’s “crown” is also the latest addition to the futuristic structures of the $3 billion City of Arts and Sciences www.cac.es that have been rising since 1998 along the banks of the former Turia River, now a ribbon of green parks and gardens. With America’s Cup coming to this Mediterranean city in 2007, Valencia’s waterfront is being redeveloped by some of the world’s leading architects including Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster and Frank Gehry.
In 2003 a Jurassic museum opened in Asturias and the dramatic 1,660-seat Tenerife Opera House designed by Calatrava opened on the largest of the seven Canary Islands. www.auditoriodetenerife.com
The paradors of Spain announced a major expansion program with plans for about 10 more by 2010 – adding to the existing network of 86. Opening this spring in La Rioja is the 52-room Fray Bernardo de Fresneda. Three paradors are scheduled to open in 2006: an 83-room parador in Murcia, the 124-room La Granja de San Ildefonso in Segovia and the 44-room La Cruz de Tejeda on Gran Canary Island. In 2007, a 130-room parador outside of Madrid in Alcalá de Henares will open. www.parador.es
For further information about Spain, contact the Tourist Office of Spain, at 1-212-265-8822 or www.okspain.org