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Gorgeous guitar, heavenly singing, artistic dancing, colorful costumes: The complex art that is flamenco can be a singularly moving experience. While its origins remain a mystery, flamenco in some form has been around since at least the 16th century, and its roots stretch across cultures. Today, Spain keeps the flame of flamenco alive, with melodies wafting through streets across the country. Here are two places to experience it.
Check in to the Hotel Palacio del Retiro, a member of Autograph Collection, fittingly set in the museum-laden area known as the Golden Triangle of Art. This palatial corner home, which dates to the early 20th century, channels history throughout its 50 rooms and public spaces. Arched windows and lavish stonework on the edifice evoke a different era, while inside you’ll find dazzling details like stained-glass windows, gorgeous columns, and ironwork.
Then go flamenco in Madrid! If you’re interested in dance lessons, sign up at one the most famous flamenco dance schools, Amor de Dios, where legends of the art sometimes teach. With a little asking around, you can find classes in guitar and singing as well.
Shopping for flamenco-wear? Senovilla offers a wide range of flamenco dance skirts and dresses; plus, they’re the distributors of the official eponymous flamenco shoe brand. For more clothing—and more about the art itself—head to El Flamenco Vive, where you’ll find music CDs, DVDs, books, and even guitars.
Then it’s time for the real deal. Catching a recital at a place like Sala García Lorca can be a fun way to hear flamenco singing and/or guitar in a more intimate atmosphere than a full show (though there’s usually no dancing). For the complete experience—guitar, singing, dancing, and clapping—some of Spain’s most famous venues, or tablaos, are in Madrid: Corral de la Moreria, Casa Patas, and Cardamomo.
Drive 4.5 hours south of Madrid to Grenada, which played host to some of flamenco’s earliest roots. Also, it was here in 1922 that flamenco was catapulted to the global stage; the first flamenco competition, Concurso de Cante Jondo, took place at the Alhambra.
Your home here is the AC Palacio de Santa Paula, a converted 16th-century convent and 12th-century Moorish house that comes imbued with the history of a different era. Set around two courtyards, this boutique hotel offers 75 guest rooms and suites with features like arched windows and vaulted ceilings. Some even add elegant terraces or original ceiling panels bearing inscriptions from the Koran.
Check to see if there’s a flamenco show at the Alhambra; even if there’s not, take a tour of this fortress whose origins trace back to the 9th century. Grenada also offers the unique experience of witnessing flamenco in caves. Take in a show at places like Cuevas los Tarantos, Cueva La Rocio, Museo de la Zambra, and Venta El Gallo—celebrating this beautiful art form with the passionate performers who know it intimately.
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