MADRID – For beaches, you have to be in Spain of course. However, the country is also not inferior to competing destinations such as Italy and Greece in terms of interesting sights. Spain has no less than 48 monuments and locations that are recognised as World Heritage.
And those are only the internationally recognised buildings, historic city centres or archaeological remains. There’s much more. But we don´t want to get your head completely out of control. Therefore, for International Day of Monuments and Landscapes on April 18, we have listed the ten most visited monuments in Spain for you. This list is compiled by Turespaña. The organisation that promotes Spain abroad and falls under the Ministry of Tourism.
This special day has been proposed as a celebration by the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). It is designed to raise awareness and disseminate information about the value of historical heritage and the importance of preserving and protecting it.
Monuments have not only become the best proof of the existence of different civilisations, but they are also an essential element for the tourism industry. Often, they are the main motivation of many travellers that pushes them to visit a specific destination.
A great opportunity for all Spain lovers to see which monument they have not yet seen and to plan their next trip to Spain on that basis. The list is arranged from least visited to most visited monuments.
Giralda in Seville
As one of the best-known symbols of Seville and the second-largest cathedral in the world, the Giralda is a must-see for any traveller visiting this beautiful city. Originally built as a minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville in the 12th century, the tower is now one of the city’s best-known landmarks and serves as the bell tower for the cathedral. The tower is 104 metres high and offers a spectacular view of the city and surroundings. Climbing gives visitors the chance to see the beautiful architecture up close while enjoying breathtaking vistas.
The Giralda is also an important historical monument. It was built during the Moorish rule of Spain and reflects the unique architecture of the time with a combined Arabic and Andalucian style.
Roman Theatre in Mérida
The Roman Theatre in Merida is a fascinating sight for anyone interested in the history of the Roman Empire and the impact it had on Spanish culture. It was built in the 1st century AD and served as the cultural centre of the city. It could seat over 6,000 people and was used for a variety of events, including plays, musical performances and gladiator fights. The theatre is one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in the world and provides a fascinating insight into the architecture and engineering of the time.
An impressive aspect of the theatre is its wonderful acoustics. The stands were designed in such a way that the sound spread perfectly so that every spectator could hear and see everything well. It is therefore not surprising that the theatre is still used for cultural events and performances.
The Roman Theatre is part of a larger archaeological complex that also includes the Amphitheatre, the Temple of Diana and the Roman Aqueduct, all of which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Also read: Mérida – a Roman treasure trove in Spain
Cathedral of Palma (Mallorca)
Palma’s cathedral, La Seu, is one of Palma de Mallorca’s most notable landmarks. Here are a few reasons why you can’t miss a visit when you’re in Palma. The building is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture and is one of the largest churches in Europe. From the outside, it is impressive to see a huge rose window and beautiful statues adorning the facade. Inside, visitors can enjoy the beautiful vaults, stained glass windows and chapels.
There is a lot of history and symbolism behind the cathedral. The building is over 700 years old and has a history that dates back to the Moorish rule of Mallorca. There are some beautiful works of art to admire, such as Gaudí’s famous canopy and a painting by Francisco de Goya. The cathedral is still one of Palma’s most important religious centres and services and celebrations are regularly held there. It is also a popular wedding venue and venue for several important events, such as the annual Dijous Bo festival.
The Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar is one of the most important sights of the city of Zaragoza. The building has unique architecture and is one of the most important baroque buildings in Spain. The facade is richly decorated with statues and reliefs. The interior is equally impressive with beautiful domes and vaults embellished with paintings and frescoes.
The basilica is also one of the most important sanctuaries of the Catholic Church and is considered the most important church in Spain after the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is home to the image of the Virgin of Pilar, which plays a significant role in Spanish religious tradition. It is also an key cultural attraction because of the impressive collection of works of art that you can see there. Amongst are paintings by famous Spanish artists such as Francisco de Goya and Diego Velázquez. In the museum in the church, visitors can learn more about the history and religious significance of the basilica.
Alcazar de Segovia
The Alcázar of Segovia is a beautiful medieval castle that sits atop a hill in the city. It is one of the most notable landmarks of Segovia. The building is a beautiful example of medieval military architecture. Originally built as a fortress, it was later expanded and turned into a royal palace. The Alcázar has a unique shape with its towers and battlements overlooking the surrounding landscapes.
The castle also has a rich and interesting history dating back to Roman times. It served as a royal palace for several Spanish monarchs, including Catholic Queen Isabella and Philip II. Consequently, it has played an important role in Spain’s history.
Located in the historic city of the same name in northern Spain, Burgos Cathedral is an impressive example of Gothic architecture. The building is considered one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain. Striking for its high vaults, beautiful stained glass windows and impressive facade.
The cathedral also has several chapels and altarpieces for visitors to admire. In addition, historical figures are buried there, including El Cid and Queen Isabella. Finally, Burgos Cathedral offers a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding mountains from its tower.
Also read: A quick guide to Burgos
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain is one of Christianity’s most important sanctuaries and a popular pilgrimage destination. The cathedral is the end point of the legendary Camino de Santiago. Moreover, the building is a striking example of Romanesque architecture and Baroque style. The interior is richly decorated with altarpieces, sculptures and paintings. In addition, the cathedral is famous for its beautiful Portico de la Gloria, a 12th-century sculpture by Master Mateo. The history of the structure dates back to the 9th century. Furthermore, the location is the result of the apostle James the Great being buried in the same place. Pilgrims from all over the world complete their pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago with a visit to the cathedral in Santiago, where they venerate the relics of the apostle.
Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba
The Mezquita-Catedral in Córdoba is one of Spain’s most unique sights. This due to its special combination of Christian and Islamist architecture and history. The building is a masterpiece in itself. The original mosque dates back to the 8th century and was one of the largest mosques in the world at the time. After the reconquest from the Moors by the Catholics, it was converted into a cathedral during the 13th century. That is why you now see a unique combination of Islamic and Christian elements. The interior of the Mezquita-Catedral is breathtaking. There are over 850 marble columns, beautiful mosaics and stucco work, and a mix of Christian and Islamic art and ornaments. Furthermore, the building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finally, the Mezquita-Catedral is a spiritual place as it is a sanctuary for both Christians and Muslims.
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is one of the most striking and iconic structures in the world. The basilica was designed by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi and has been under construction for over 135 years. At first glance, you can see that this is a masterpiece of architecture and design. Gaudi devoted his entire life to the designing and building of this basilica. The result is a stunning example of modernism and Gothic style. The basilica has numerous unique features such as the natural shapes and the beautiful colours of the stained glass.
The Sagrada Familia is also a spiritual place. The interior is designed to evoke a sense of spirituality and belonging and encourage visitors to reflect on their spirituality. The mystical atmosphere that is enhanced by the beautiful stained glass windows and the high ceiling attracted almost 4.5 million visitors in 2022.
The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located on a hill in the Andalucian city of Granada. It is the most visited tourist attraction in Spain. And, furthermore, it is even one of the ten most visited monuments in the world. The Moorish building complex is one of the foremost examples of Islamic architecture in Spain. You can witness the rich culture and history of Islamic civilization during Spain’s medieval Islamic period.
The palace consists of several rooms and patios. These are decorated with elaborate and exquisite and detailed, unreal beautiful stucco decorations, carvings, mosaics and tiles with intricate patterns. From Alhambra, visitors also have a beautiful view of the city of Granada and the (in winter snowy) peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The complex has witnessed numerous historical events. These include the reign of the Nasrid dynasty and the conquest of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs. Visitors can learn about these important moments and the influence they had on the history of Spain and the world.