Spain Shows Off Its Jewish Heritage

written by | Posted on August 1st, 2012

Lucena, Spain

A cityscape of Lucena, Spain. Photo Courtesy of Turismo Andaluz.

Last year, Spain received about 57 million international visitors who were there to visit such destinations as Barcelona, Toledo, Segovia, Sevilla, Leon and Girona…cities whose history, architecture, and cuisine, among other attributes, are world-renowned. But what might not be as well known about these cities and a handful of others is that they are part of the Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters-Routes of Sepharad, encompassing 24 cities.

At a recent event in Miami, the Tourist Office of Spain showcased these myriad cities and their Jewish heritage to an audience that was comprised primarily of local travel agents. During the workshop and presentation, the Tourist Office of Spain noted that a high percentage of those international visitors to Spain were in fact repeat visitors—and we’re not talking second-time repeat visitors—so what they stressed to the audience of travel agents was that even repeat visitors, let alone first-time visitors, had a chance of encountering something new in their travels to Spain, beyond the World Heritage Sites, beyond the exquisite culinary offerings, and beyond the better-known sites.

This Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters-Routes of Sepharad, which include Avila, Barcelona, Besalu, Caceres, Calahorra, Castello d’Empuries, Cordoba, Estella-Lizarra, Girona, Hervas, Jaen, Leon, Lucena, Monforte de Lemos, Oviedo, Palma, Plasencia, Ribadavia, Segovia, Sevilla, Tarazona, Toledo, Tortosa and Tudela, have their own tourist certification, RASGORestaurants, Accommodations, Signposting, Guides, Cultural Offer—which strives to offer a high level of quality in products and services related to the Jewish heritage in Spain, preserving the essence of Sepharad.

Also, on a wider scale, this network is a member of the European Routes of Jewish Heritage, which include many other cities in Europe, and several organizations, and which has been listed as “Major Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” in 2005. The network organizes the annual “European Day of Jewish Heritage,” when many cities in Europe show off their Jewish heritage, acknowledging the Jewish heritage as an important part of European culture.

Here are some places of interest, per destination, you can recommend your clients visit as they hop-scotch through Spain’s Jewish history:

Avila: Basilica of San Vicente; Pocillo Synagogue; and Museum of Avila

Barcelona: Saint lu Square and Museum of the History of Barcelona

Besalu: Mikhev (purifying Jewish baths) and remains of the Synagogue

Caceres: Synagogue of the New Jewish Quarter; singular and complex layout of long, steep streets with small squares and hidden corners

Calahorra: Museo de la Verdura (The Vegetable Museum); urban framework of the former Jewish Quarter

Castello d’Empuries: Medieval walls; Basilica de Santa Maria

Cordoba: Cordoba Synogogue; Casa Sefarad and Casa Mazal

Estella-Lizarra: Tour along the walls of the New Jewish Quarter; Santa Maria Gate

Girona: Bonastuc ca Porta Centre, housing the Museum of Jewish History and the Nahmanides Institute of Jewish Studies

Hervas: Del Vado and Rabilero streets

Jaen: Menorah and remains of the Baeza Gate from the Huerfanos Square; Arabian Baths

Leon: Barrio Humedo; Conde Luna Palace

Lucena: Jewish necropolis; District of Santiago

Monforte de Lemos: Falagueira Street and the houses of the Gaibor family; Alcazaba Gate

Oviedo: The Casina Sinagogo; Porlier Square and Juan XXIII Square

Palma: Escoles Street; Museum of Majorca

Plasencia: Jewish cemetery; Route through La Mota Jewish Quarter

Ribadavia: The Wall Gates; Juderia Street

Segovia: Former Main Synagogue; Jewish cemetery

Sevilla: Altamira Palace; Jewish necropolis

Tarazona: The Hanging Houses; The Old Jewish Quarter

Toledo: The “House of the Jew”; the bust of Semuel ha-Levi

Tortosa: The Celio Tower; The Suda Castle

Tudela: Yehuda Ha Levi Square; Benjamin de Tudela Street

Sample itineraries offered by Viaje El Corte Ingles, which offers travel agent commission, include:

• The 7-day East of Spain + Barcelona program, which visits Barcelona, of course, as well Besalu, Castello d’Empuries, Girona, Tarazona, Tudela, Estella, Calahorra and Tortosa. Rates start at approximately $1,600 pp dbl, minimum 20-person group, and include accommodations in three-/four-star hotels, lunch and dinner as per itinerary, buffet breakfast, local guides, tour escort and transportation in private bus.

• The 7-day Madrid & Extremadura program, which visits Madrid, Toledo, Caceres, Plasencia, Hervas, Avila and Segovia. Rates start at approximately $1,500, minimum 20-person group, and include accommodations in three-/four-star hotels, lunch and dinner as per itinerary, buffet breakfast, local guides, tour escort and transportation in private bus.

• The 7-day Madrid & Galicia program, which visits Madrid, Toledo, Avila, Segovia, Leon, Oviedo, Monforte, Ribadavia and Santiago de Compostela. Rates start at approximately $1,500 pp dbl, minimum 20-person group, and include accommodations in three-/four-star hotels, lunch and dinner as per itinerary, buffet breakfast, local guides, tour escort and transportation in private bus.

• The 7-day Madrid & Andalucia program, which visits Madrid, Segovia, Avila, Toledo, Jaen, Cordoba and Sevilla. Rates start at approximately $1,400 pp dbl, minimum 20-person group, and include accommodations in three-/four-star hotels, lunch and dinner as per itinerary, buffet breakfast, local guides, tour escort and transportation in private bus.

• The 8-day Madrid, Barcelona & Andalucia program, which visits Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Girona, Besalu, Castello d’Empuries, Barcelona and Cordoba. Rates start at approximately $1,900 pp dbl, minimum 20-person group, and include accommodations in three-/four-star hotels, lunch and dinner as per itinerary, buffet breakfast, local guides, tour escort and transportation in private bus.

For more tour details, call (800) 600-9260 or visit ecivacations.com.

For more information on the Network of Spanish Jewish Quarters-Routes of Sepharad, visit redjuderias.org. For more information on Spain, visit spain.info/en_US.

To read more about Spain, see our story Barcelona Will Leave You Beaming from November 2011.