In August 1492 – by order of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella – all Spanish Jews ( Sephardi ) who had not converted to Catholicism were expelled from their homeland of 1,500 years. Until then Jews regarded their life in medieval Spain as a Golden Age, in which they worked and lived harmoniously with Muslims and Christians.
In an effort to recover the cultural heritage of Jewish Spain, the cities of Barcelona, Girona, Besalu, Cordoba, Caceres, Jaen, Hervas, Ribadavia, Segovia, Toledo, Tudela and more have created a network "The Sephardic Way", which aims to locate and revive the lost Spanish Jewish heritage. Plans call for restoring the synagogues and Jewish Quarters in these cities, and creating cultural centres and museums devoted to a deeper understanding of the Sephardic legacy.
THE FOLLOWING JEWISH HERITAGE ITINERARY IS AN EXAMPLE OF ONE JEWISH HERITAGE TOUR IN SPAIN. TOTALLY SPAIN CAN BOOK THIS EXACT ITINERARY FOR YOU OR WE CAN CUSTOMISE AN ITINERARY FOR YOU USING ELEMENTS FROM THIS TOUR AND COMBINING IT WITH OTHER PLACES THAT YOU WISH TO VISIT. WE CAN ALSO ARRANGE FOR SPECIALIST TOUR GUIDES TO ACCOMPANY YOU AS WELL AS DINING ON SEPHARDI-STYLE CUISINE.
Day ONE BARCELONA
Arrive in Barcelona and transfer to your centrally located Barcelona hotel.
Day TWO BARCELONA
Tour the former Jewish quarter in Barcelona in the hands of our expert local guide, a Jewish architect who will bring to life the story of the Jews in Barcelona as you walk the streets of the medieval quarter.
Later visit Montjuic (Jewish mountain) and see the Shoah Memorial (dedicated 1995) a very special landscaped site and the museum with Jewish gravestones from the Middle Ages. Also the Museum of National Art of Catalonia where you can view gothic religious paintings depicting conversions of Jews to Christianity.
Day THREE GIRONA - BESALU
Today collect your rental car in Barcelona and travel just over an hour north to Girona.
Head first about 20 miles north of Girona to the pretty medieval village of Besalu. Here exists a 12th century mikvah (ritual Jewish bath), one of the only three from the same period that have been kept in Europe. It was discovered in 1964. This mikvah is a stone room with 36 steps where strategically placed openings allow the rising river to flood it to the correct water level each spring and fall.
Near the Mihah, where most Jews lived, there used to be the synagogue, which is called schola in written documents of the period. The synagogue was built in 1264 thanks to a privilege granted by Jaume I el Conqueridor. Nowadays,there are no remains of the synagogue, although the city has kept its memory alive, by calling the spot where it used to stand, “Pla dels Jueus” or Place of the Jews.
Later return to Girona and overnight.
Day FOUR GIRONA
Girona during the Middle Ages was a very important Jewish centre and it still has the best preserved and most important Jewish quarter in Spain. It was discovered by accident during the reconstruction of the railroad from Spain to France in the mid-19th century. Girona´s old Jewish section is known as the “Call” and was restored in 1980.
From its main street, once a Roman Road, you can walk beneath archways and between stone buildings that transports one back in time. Sunlight rarely reaches here. In the heart of the quarter is a new educational and cultural complex called the Bonastruc Ca Porta Centre, which recreates Jewish life through art exhibits, musical events and food tastings. Surrounding a patio on the site of an ancient synagogue, the complex includes a Catalan Museum of Jewish Culture, the Institute for Sephardic and Kabbalistic Studies, and a library that houses important medieval Jewish manuscripts.
Day FIVE SEGOVIA
Today make your way south-west to the province of Castilla Leon and the fine city of Segovia.
Day SIX SEGOVIA
Although most famous for its impressive aqueduct, landmark of the city, Segovia is another important stop along the Sephardic Way. In the throne Room of the Alcazar, Ferdinand and Isabella signed the infamous expulsion order in March 1492. Until the expulsion Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in harmony and often shared lodgings. The Jewish houses were typically made of bricks with wooden frames, visible on the outside. After the expulsion order, Jews who converted to christianity (Conversos) or pretended to convert (Marranos) disguised their ghetto houses by adding stone facades and patios.
Discover the Corpus Christi church which was once the main synagogue in Segovia; the Didactic Center of the Jewish quarter, located in Abraham Senneor's house; San Andres Gate, in the medieval walls of Segovia, from where magnificent views of the Jewish cemetery can be seen; and the Museum of Segovia, placed in a fortification of the wall known as House of the Sun.
Accommodation of your choice in Segovia.
Day SEVEN and EIGHT TOLEDO ( VIA MADRID )
Today travel first to Madrid city where there is a small but active Jewish community. The main centre is the Beth Yaacov Synagogue where there is also a small museum that can be visited. Note that kosher cuisine is readily available from several establishments near the synagogue. As well as the many important sights to be seen in Madrid city such as the Royal Palace and the Prado Museum, you can also visit the Holocaust memorial at the Parque Juan Carlos.
Later continue south to Toledo the former capital of Spain, just before the expulsion, when the city was one of the leading centres of Jewry in Spain. At the end of the 14th century, after the Jews had been expelled, eight of the city’s ten synagogues and its five Talmudic schools were destroyed. The remaining synagogues that survived were converted into churches. One of those synagogues that remained, the Transito Synagogue, was built in 1357 and is full of Moorish carvings and arcades. Two years after the expulsion it became a Catholic Church, and since 1972, a Sephardic Museum with historic Hebrew inscriptions and a beautiful panelled wooden ceiling. Santa Maria La Blanca is the other synagogue that is now empty. Built by Arabs in the 12th century, it looks more like a mosque than a synagogue.
Other interesting sights in Toledo include the Hermitage of Christ of the Light; former mosque built around 1000 AD and the Gothic cathedral begun in 1227. See also the Mudejar churches from 13th and 14th centuries and "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz", El Greco's masterpiece, which is in the Church of Santo Tomé.
Here we can arrange for an expert in Jewish history to accompany you on a prvate guided tour.
Day NINE and TEN CORDOBA
Continue south to Cordoba and see the Synagogue built in 1314, a beautiful Mudejar building nearly perfectly preserved and the only synagogue in Spain from that time not to have been turned into a Christian building. Explore the Jewish Quarter which conserves all its charming medieval identity. See the Almodovar gate or gate of the Jews as it is known. Also the monument to the great Jewish doctor and philospher, Maimonides. See the Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir river, the Moorish mosque; one of the finest works of Spanish Caliphate art begun in the 8th century, and the Moorish walls built in 8th, 9th and 10th centuries. Visit also the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Fortress of the Christian Monarchs) a Mudejar palace from 14th century with a beautiful Moorish garden complex, which served as the seat of the Inquisition´s Tribunal in the 15th century.
Here we can arrange for an expert in Jewish history to accompany you on a private guided tour.
While in Cordoba also be sure to visit the Casa Sefarad, a cultural project concerned with Judeo-Spanish culture, history and tradition which through it´s unique collection and cultural activities aims to make known the rich legacy of the Sephardic tradition.
Note that during the third week in June the annual International Sephardi Music Festival takes place in Cordoba.
On your second day in Cordoba it could be arranged to travel to Lucena once called the Jew´s City as it was almost exclusively inhabited by Jews between the 9th and 12th century. The Jews of Lucena were extremely wealthy due to their extensive trade and industries and lived peacefully until the Almoravides came into power and eventually persecuted them finally destroying the flourishing city in 1146. A fascinating discovery was made in 2007 when the Jewish cemetary dating back to the 10th century was uncovered during roadworks and over 340 tombs were revealed.
Day ELEVEN and TWELVE SEVILLE
Continue on to Seville which most important monuments include the former Jewish Quarter “Barrio Santa Cruz”, the breathtaking Moorish Giralda and Cathedral, and the stunning Alcazar and gardens.
Seville was conquered by the Christians two and a half centuries before Granada fell and much of its architecture is Mudejar – a mixture of Moorish and Christian. The oldest pieces of Islamic architecture surviving are the late 12th century Giralda (bell tower) of the Cathedral, the Torre del Oro (1220) and a small selection of the Alcazar. But the most exhilarating Mudejar buildings are Peter the Cruel’s palace at the Alcazar, of different dates, and the Casa de Pilatos, completed in 1540.
A very small Jewish community exists in Seville and we can arrange for you to meet a member of the community who at weekends provides guided tours for up to four people maximum.
Later enjoy a flamenco performance, the roots of which are many including Jewish.
Day THIRTEEN AND FOURTEEN COSTA DEL SOL
Continue to Torremolinos or Marbella on the Costa del Sol where a very active Jewish community exists. Note that kosher cuisine is quite easily obtained here.
While enjoying the beaches and relaxing on the Costa del Sol, interesting daytrips include Gibraltar where in addition to seeing the Rock, you can also visit the Jewish cemetary, synagogue and community centre.
End of tour.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A SUGGESTED JEWISH HERITAGE TOUR. IT MAY BE BOOKED AS PROPOSED OR IT MAY BE CUSTOMISED TO SUIT YOUR EXACT REQUIREMENTS.
If you like the look of the above Suggested Tour we will gladly prepare a quote for you. The itinerary is not rigid and can be modified to suit your needs.
Below is a selection of the accommodation we would recommend for this tour. Click on the Hotel Code or symbol for photographs and detailed information about each property. If you have registered to use our Spain Travel & Holiday Planner, you need only click on to insert it into your itinerary.
|Jewish Heritage in Spain||Hotel Code||Classification||Information|
|2 nights in Barcelona||BAR06||Central Hotel|
|2 nights in Girona||CAT27||Central Hotel|
|2 nights in Segovia||CYL15||Central Hotel|
|2 nights in Toledo||CYM02||Central Hotel|
|2 nights in Marbella||AND120||Central Hotel w/ pool|