If someone mentions Spain, you’ll most likely think of paella, siesta, tapas, flamenco and, let’s be honest, Ibiza’s parties. But there is so mucho more to this beautiful country! Spain is home to some of the most beautiful historical and architectural sites in the world, many of which are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Today we’ll go over some of these unique places in Spain but be warned, you’ll want to start packing your bags soon after reading this!
Hundreds of years ago, when the Romans occupied the northern region of Spain, they built the Tower of Hercules. This 55m lighthouse is the only one included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list and is still working today! The views from the top are gorgeous and the stonework inside the tower is exceptional.
And since you’re already here, you can’t leave La Coruña without trying some of the excellent seafood Galicia is so famous for. Our tip? Make a reservation in O Fado and enjoy the best dishes prepared in a local way.
Aranjuez is a town in the southern part of the Community of Madrid. It is most famous for the Palace of Aranjuez, an impressive construction that was used by the Royal Family as a Spring and Summer residence. The palace is surrounded by wonderful gardens and fountains that hide, among other treasures, a jaw-dropping hunting lodge at the end of Jardín del Príncipe.
Make sure to take a guided tour of its interiors, it is worth to see the impressively decorated rooms, the frescoes, the crystal chandeliers and the excellent olive wood and mahogany furniture pieces.
Barcelona is a city that we’ve already spoken about, but we don’t mind going revisiting its many wonderful treasures, how can one get tired of admiring Gaudí’s unique legacy? It is no surprise that his artistic works are one of Spain’s most renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites. See for yourself:
Built between 1900 and 1914, this lovely spot offers one of the best views over Barcelona.
Words are not enough to describe this extraordinary creation of architect Gaudí, also known as La Pedrera. The entire facade is made of natural stone, and as a curious fact, know that this was the first house in Barcelona with underground parking!
Another wonder from Gaudi, Casa Batlló will leave you wonderstruck, it looks like something right out of a fairytale! Lots of colours and shapes designed to resemble nature create a magical atmosphere, that is enhanced through the daylight shining through the designed windows.
A must see for any tourist in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia is Antoni Gaudi’s most celebrated creation, still under construction since it began in 1882. Its construction will take longer than the Egyptian pyramids!
A little secret (that’s actually not so secret): one of the most famous chefs in the world, Ferran Adriá, is from Barcelona…. Perfect excuse to try one, or some, of his dishes!
The city of León, located in northern Spain, hides the truly awe-inspiring Cathedral of León. After the cathedrals of Seville and Toledo, this is Spain’s largest cathedral and an excellent example of Gothicism. Make sure to book a guided tour!
León is also famous for its regional gastronomy, this is the place to try some of Spain’s best cured meats and croquettes!
The old town of Cáceres is the perfect image of a Spanish medieval city, also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And did you know that some Games of Thrones scenes were filmed here? The monumental city, incredibly rich in history and architecture, is well preserved; you can still see the vestiges of all the different cultures that occupied Cáceres throughout the centuries.
We won’t forget to mention the wine, make sure to pay attention to the local tempranillo! Add a tapa of jamón serrano and you’re good to go.
If you’re in Córdoba, you shouldn’t even doubt visiting one of the greatest cathedrals in the world; the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. You’ll be truly amazed by its size, horizontally, it is almost four times the size of Notre Dame! It was built by the moors in the 8th century, the Roman influence is tangible, and after the Reconquista, the mosque was turned into a Catholic cathedral. The legacy of all these civilisations is something that you’ll be able to appreciate in the Mudejar architecture, the detailed wood and marble works, and the characteristic gold and finery from Catholic monuments.
Córdoba hosts one of the world’s most significant guitar events, the annual Cordoba Guitar Festival. This year it is expected to take place in July, the exact dates have not been confirmed yet.
The ancient city of Cuenca, in Castile-La Mancha, hides several treasures, like the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace and Saint Julian, the Church of Saint Peter, the Bridge of Saint Paul, the Seminary and the Mangana Tower. Besides these sights, another impressive attraction that happens to be a favourite for tourists, is the Hanging Houses of Cuenca, historic buildings that hang “dangerously” off the town’s cliffs above the Huécar and Júcar rivers.
Nearby Cuenca, tourists can visit the Ciudad Encantada, an interesting and worth to see the a labyrinth of eroded rocks.
One of the most famous buildings in Spain is located in Granada, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And yes, we know, Spain has lots of unique attractions! This time we are referring to the spectacular Moorish fortress The Alhambra Citadel of Granada, another deservedly UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can read all you want about this place, you won’t be prepared for the amount of history of the place and its amazing size and architecture, wonderful and impressive!
Granada was the last Moorish stronghold to fall under the Catholic regime, in 1492. The oldest part of the city is the Albaicín district, also well worth a visit.
Santiago de Compostela
We next travel to the old town of Santiago de Compostela, where we’ll visit the baroque Cathedral of Santiago. Soaked in history, it marks the final stop for those who do the pilgrimage of Santiago.
While you visit the city, you can stop by the picturesque Hostal dos Reyes Católicos, the oldest hotel in the world or so they claim!
The Moorish didn’t waste any time during the time of Islamic Spain (or Al-Andalus), leaving behind incredible examples of Moorish architecture. Seville is another great city where the Moorish culture left its mark. Here, the visitor can go back in time visiting the great example of Mudejar architecture that is the Alcazar of Seville. Fascinating! Let yourself be overwhelmed by magic while you admire the beautiful gardens, the araba patios and the distinct interiors.
Another interesting thing to know about Seville is that Christopher Columbus is buried here, in the astounding Cathedral Santa María de Sevilla, the third largest gothic cathedral in the world.
Spain’s capital is a great city for many reasons, and this is something also appreciated by kings and queens years and years ago. In fact, the city was chosen as his residence by King Philip II of Spain back in the 16th century. He ordered the construction of The Escorial (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) at the foot of Mt. Abantos, in the Sierra de Guadarrama, 45 km away from Madrid. It is a must if you’re interested in Spanish and European history, royal palaces and romantic walks!
Visiting Madrid should also include a walk along the Gran Via, a visit Madrid’s Art Triangle, which includes the Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums, and a night getting to know the famous neighbourhood of Malasaña and its gritty taverns.
Are you in the mood for jaw-dropping landscapes? Then Mallorca is the right place for you. The dreamy Mediterranean island is not just a beach destination, although the beaches ARE fantastic. The mountain area of the Serra de Tramuntana is a gem that offers a unique scenery, hidden coves, deep Calanques… Also awarded the World Heritage Status by UNESCO. Our tip is to visit Mallorca during autumn or spring and drive along the coast from Andratx to Cap de Formentor. You won’t be disappointed.
And besides its natural side, Mallorca’s main city, Palma, is another treat for the eye. Visit the old town and admire the Mallorquin townhouses, its enchanting interior patios and Palma’s Cathedral, the only in the world whose reflection can bee seen in the water!
Toledo was founded by Romans, served as the capital during the Visigothic Kingdom, was no less important during Islamic Spain, and served as the Capital of the country before Madrid. The city’s diverse history and architecture is a mix of synagogues, mosques and churches that inspire many, it even inspired El Greco in various paintings.
Besides its history and impressive architecture, Toledo is also famous for marzipan, its most famous dessert. If you’re totally possessed by a sweet tooth, you’ll be able to purchase it at one of the many convents in the city!