The world history is fascinating and disturbing at the same time. Spain has its fair share of history embedded in the annals of world history.
It is this history that has today, given Spain, its bucket of UNESCO world heritage sites that scream the past and stand as a testimony of the events that took place back in time. So, here is our list of UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain that should visit during your next trip to the country.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain
Cáceres – Roman, Islamic and Renaissance styles
The Old Town of Cáceres was once the battleground between the Christians and the Moors. This urban ensemble has been shaped by the long history of different cultures that gathered in the place from time to time.
The first settlements were from the Pre-Roman era, followed by the Romans, Arabs, Jews, and Christians. The city today holds a blend of Roman, Islamic, Italian Renaissance, and Northern Gothic style architecture, all of which reflect the bloody battles fought between the Moors and the Christians.
Cáceres is a piece of history that speaks about the attempts of different cultures and religions to establish their hegemony. If you are a history buff, you will like this carefully preserved old town!
Located in Granada, Alhambra is a complex of fortress and palace that rises above the modern lower town. Built between 1238 and 1358, during the rule of Ibn al-Aḥmar (and his successors) who founded the Naṣrid dynasty, Alhambra is a piece of history from medieval Spain.
After the Moors were overthrown in 1492 by the Christians, Charles V, who ruled that part of Spain as Charles, I between 1516 and 1556, commissioned the rebuilding of certain parts in Renaissance style. He even had certain parts of Alhambra destroyed to build the Italian palace that was designed in 1526 by Pedro Machuca.
Today, designated as a world heritage site in Spain, Alhambra attracts history enthusiasts from all over the world. Don’t forget to book your spot!
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela or the Old Town is Spain’s one of the most famous pilgrimage sites that reflects the struggles of Christians against the Islamic barbarism. In the 10th century, the old town was completely destroyed by the followers of Islam only to be rebuilt in the 11th century.
Touted as one of the most beautiful urban areas, the Old Town of Santiago holds a combination of Baroque, Gothic, and Romanesque buildings that hold some incredible history waiting for you to explore.
Cave of Altamira
In case you crave for some Paleolithic cave art dating all the way back to 35,000 to 11,000 BCE, the Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain is something you cannot skip.
It is one of the several UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain that is extremely well-preserved because of the isolated location that preserves the art galleries from the elements of nature.
The Cave of Altamira is an epitome of humanity’s earliest arts that will walk you through the different stages of human history.
Cuenca Old Town
Towering over the magnificent countryside, the historic walled town of Cuenca is a piece of history from the Medieval Era. The Moors built it. It was a defensive position located right at the heart of the famous Caliphate of Cordoba.
The Castilians conquered it in the 12th century, converting it into bishopric and royal town. Home to some of the most important buildings in Spain, the Cuenca Old Town holds the first Gothic Cathedral of Spain and the famous hanging houses (aka Casas colgadas). The town is extraordinarily well-preserved!
Córdoba – Great Mosque and Historic Center
After the Moorish conquest in the 8th century, the period of glory began for Córdoba. In order to rival the glory of Baghdad, Damascus, and Constantinople, nearly 300 mosques and countless public buildings and palaces were built.
One of them was the Great Mosque, which under the rule of Ferdinand III, was converted into a cathedral in the 13th century. In addition, Ferdinand III also commissioned the erection of defensive structures of which Torre Fortaleza de la Calahorra and Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos hold significant importance.
Royal Alcázar of Seville
The Royal Alcázar is often touted as the world’s one of the most monumental and spectacular complexes. At the heart of Seville sits three remarkable monuments, which are, Archivo de Indias, Alcázar and Cathedral.
The Alcázar and the Cathedral date back to the time of Reconquest of 1248, all the way up to the 16th century. They reflect heavy Moorish influence. These buildings stand as a testimony of Christian Andalusia and Almohad civilization.
When it comes to Almohad architecture, the Giralda minaret is a masterpiece that speaks of the architectural genius of the Almohad civilization. The cathedral, next to which the Giralda minaret stands, is Europe’s largest Gothic building, and this is where the tomb of Christopher Columbus lays!
Alcalá de Henares
Located in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, the University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares was founded in the early 16th century by Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros. It was the first planned university city in the world.
It became the first model for the Civitas Dei or City of God, which was basically the ideal urban community that was brought to the Americas by the Spanish missionaries. It also became a model of universities all over Europe and various parts of the world.
When it comes to Spain’s Art Nouveau movement, Antoni Gaudi – the architect and designer – always remained at the forefront. He was the architect of some of the most notable landmarks of the city. Gaudi gave life to his architecture by taking concepts from nature.
His works reflect exceptional creative genius, the likes of which were never seen or imagined before. Both his finished and incomplete works stand as a testimony to his genius. Some of his famous works include Palacio Güell, Parque Güell, Casa Vicens, Casa Mila, Crypt in Colonia Güell, Casa Batlló, his works on Nativity façade and Crypt of La Sagrada Familia.
Yet another one of the UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain, the Segovia Aqueduct during the 1st century CE’s second half. Reflecting the genius of the ancient Roman architecture, this aqueduct supplied water to the city well into the 20th century directly from the Frio River.
Nearly 2,950 feet long and 94 feet tall at the highest point, the aqueduct bridge has 167 arches that are supported by pillars. What’s ingenious is that there are no clamps or mortar to hold the entire granite structure together. It stands there with the help of balancing forces!
The Historic City of Toledo
Toledo holds a history that spans over 2000 years. First, it served as a Roman municipium. It then became Visigothic Kingdom’s capital and then served as Emirate of Cordoba’s fortress.
It later became an outpost for Christian kingdoms that engaged in battles with the Moors. Finally, under Charles V, it served as a seat of supreme power for a brief period of time.
That’s quite some history that combines products and masterpieces from three major religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Doñana National Park
One of the most popular world heritage sites in Spain, the Doñana National Park in Andalusia, is located on the right bank of the estuary formed by the Guadalquivir River.
Made of mobile and fixed dunes, marshlands, lagoons, maquis, and scrub woodland, the Doñana National Park in the Mediterranean region’s one of the largest heronries and home to five threatened species of birds. Each year during the winter months, this national park houses 500,000 waterfowls – a sight to behold!
One of the many UNESCO sites in Spain, the Escurial Monastery, is an exquisitely beautiful site located in the north of Madrid at the foothills of Sierra de Guadarrama.
Built towards the end of the 16th century, the Escurial Monastery was Philip II’s retreat. During the last years of the mystic king Philip II’s reign, it became the center of the greatest political power of those days.
The Escurial Monastery was created by Michelangelo’s Spanish pupil named Juan Bautista de Toledo. However, Toledo couldn’t finish the wok before his death, and the unfinished business was picked up and completed by Juan de Herrera.
Historic City Centre of Córdoba
The Historic City Centre of Córdoba is one of its kind in Europe and also the largest. The Mosque-Cathedral of
Córdoba was recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1984, but only a decade later, much of the old town was declared a world heritage site.
The historic city center contains traces from ancient Roman times, followed by the Arabic and the Christian domination periods. If the history of intertwined cultures attracts you, this is the place for you to be at!
Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza
Located in southern Spain are two small towns – the Úbeda and the Baeza that have an urban morphology that dates back to the 9th-century Moorish era and the 13th-century Reconquista. In the 16th century, the cities came under renovation aligned with the Renaissance.
This happened because of the humanistic ideas that were imported into Spain from Italy, which eventually went on to greatly influence Latin American architecture.
The myriads of UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain will leave you awestruck and transport you back into time with
fascinating historical tales that will tell you about different cultures and the religious conflicts that eventually shaped the modern world.