These seven cities and towns preceded Madrid as the capital of Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
capital of Spain

Madrid was not always the capital of Spain. Throughout history, these seven cities have been allowed to bear the title of ‘capital‘. However, this honor was not only reserved for the larger cities, small villages were also allowed to bear this title temporarily. 


This Andalucian city was founded by the Romans in the second century and was then the capital of what was then called Hispania Ulterior (the further Spain). Centuries later, Córdoba once again became the capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba between 929 and 1031. At that time, this Caliphate covered almost the entire territory of the Iberian Peninsula. 


Throughout history, the Visigothic Empire changed its capital several times. The Visigothic Empire was a European empire from 418 to 721. During its heyday, the empire covered almost the entire Iberian Peninsula and much of what is now France. One of the capitals during this period was Barcelona, or Barcino, as the city was then called. In the city’s Municipal History Museum, there are even still some relics from that time to see. 

Cangas de Onís 

Not only large cities have ever been allowed to bear the title of ‘capital’. This small town in Asturias established itself as its capital when King Pelayo defeated the Moors at the Battle of Covadonga in 722. He founded the Kingdom of Asturias and named Cangas de Onís the capital of the empire. In total, Cangas de Onís remained the capital for no less than 22 years. 


The city of Toledo also became the capital of the Visigothic Empire in the year 567 when King Atanagildo decided not to appoint Barcelona, but Toledo as the centre of his empire. However, this was not the only time; between 1519 and 1561, Toledo again became the capital by order of King Carlos I of Spain and Emperor Charles V of Germany. 

Cogesa Expats


In the year 1601, the Duke of Lerma took the decision to move the court from Madrid to Valladolid. This moment, however, lasts only 5 years, but during that time the most emblematic buildings were built such as the Palacio de Santa Cruz and the Palacio de Pimentel. 


During three moments in history, Seville was allowed to bear the title of ‘capital’. Seville was in the time of the Greeks and Romans a short time capital of what was then Hispania Baetica, a Roman province. Between 1729 and 1733, when the city became the residence of Philip V of Spain, Seville was again declared the capital. Later during the War of Independence, Seville became the capital of Spain for the third time between 1808 and 1810. 


For three years, between 1810 and 1813, Cadiz was the capital of Spain. It was also an important cultural, political and commercial center. During this period, for example, the Spanish constitution ‘La Pepa’ was signed. 

Also read: A brief history of Spain (part 3)

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