7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to visit in Spain
Did you know Spain is one of the most well represented countries on the UNESCO World Heritage list with 48 sites? From the historic centre of Cordoba, the works of Gaudi in Barcelona and the paleolithic cave art in Northern Spain, travellers are spoilt with choice. No doubt all the sites are worth visiting however to make it easy for you we have selected our top 7 UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites in Spain.
1. The Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct
Dating back to Celtic times, the beautifully preserved hilltop town of Segovia features several very important historic monuments. The astonishing Roman Aqueduct dating back to 50 AD is remarkably well preserved and at 728 metres in length and up to 29 metres high is hard to miss as it cuts high across the base of the town. The impressive Alcázar– the fortified stone palace that juts out on a rocky crag, surrounded by sheer cliffs dating back to around the 11th century and the 16th century Gothic cathedral should not be missed.
2. The Historic Centre of Córdoba
The historic centre of Córdoba is one of the largest of its kind in Europe. Córdoba’s period of greatest glory began in the 8th century after the Moorish conquest, when some 300 mosques and countless palaces and public buildings were built to rival the splendours of Constantinople, Damascus, and Baghdad. The Grand Mosque of Córdoba was seized in 1236 under Ferdinand III and converted to a church, including the addition of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the 16th century. The highlight of your visit will be the thousand year old prayer hall of the great mosque of Córdoba featuring over 800 original Moorish red and white horseshoe shaped arches.
3. Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzin
The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, with origins dating back to the 9th century. Named for its reddish walls, this fortress complex looms high over the city. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications. In the 13th and 14th century the Moorish Emirates built the famous Nasrid Palaces surrounded by lavish gardens and courtyards. Moorish poets once described the Alhambra as “a pearl set in emeralds”. This is one of the great sights of the world.
4. Works of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona
Architect and designer, Antoni Gaudí was at the forefront of the Art Nouveau movement in Spain. His work in Barcelona led to the creation of some of the city's most notable landmarks including Parque Güell, Palacio Güell, Casa Mila, and Gaudí’s work on the Nativity façade and Crypt of La Sagrada Familia. Located in or near Barcelona, these monuments represent an eclectic, as well as a very personal style which was given free reign in the design of gardens, sculpture and all decorative arts, as well as architecture.
5. Historic city of Toledo
Located on the banks of the Tagus in central Iberia, Toledo has a wealth of monuments. Christians, Arabs, and Jews lived together here for centuries hence it is sometimes called the “city of the three cultures”. Here you will find a city crammed with churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques, and synagogues. The four towers of The Alcázar, a fortress built in 1085, dominate the skyline. The highlight of your visit will be a visit to Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, which many consider to be Spain’s finest cathedral.
6. Seville Cathedral and Alcázar
These buildings form a remarkable monumental complex in the heart of Seville. The Cathedral of Seville is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. Beside magnificent grave sculptures from the Middle Ages, the tomb of Christopher Columbus can be found there. The Alcázar is a royal palace which was built by the Moorish rulers who occupied the peninsula from the 8th century onwards. Today the upper storeys of the Alcázar are still occupied by the royal family when they are in Seville.
7. The Altamira Cave in Northern Spain
The Altamira Caves date back up to 35,000 years and are said to be the highest quality cave art found anywhere in all of Europe. So perfect, that when discovered by a hunter in 1868, archaeologists doubted they were genuine. To preserve the astonishing cave art depicting bison, horses, wolves, and more, the caves have been sealed but we can still see and admire them in the amazing replica cave built beside the cave entrance, as part of a fascinating museum.