Why do people travel? Some do it for the sights, some for the food and some do it to immerse themselves in the cultures of a different country. Spain definitely offers the best of all three with their delicious cuisines, jaw-dropping natural sights, and a rich cultural heritage.
The food, of course, can be found practically anywhere. When it comes to cultural attractions however, you need to visit several places in order to get the full impact of Spain’s colourful history. Here are 11 of the most popular cultural attractions in the country.
Due to the popularity of this page we have now updated to include the 80 top tourist attractions in Spain…enjoy!
Sagrada Familia– Barcelona
Started in 1882, this beautiful Roman Catholic Church remains unfinished despite the death of its architect, Antoni Gaudi, in 1926. This is one of the most popular cultural attractions in Barcelona and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church’s biggest attraction is its highly unique architecture, which is a combination of Gothic and modern.
Despite being a church, the Sagrada Familia displays a very different façade than the traditional houses of worship. The interior is even more impressive with the floor plan containing five aisles and resembling a Latin cross. The columns of the church are specially designed to look like trees and branches.
Attracting more than 2.5 million people every year, the Sagrada Familia offers access to different parts of the church including the Museum, Shop, Nave, Crypt, Nativity and Passion Towers.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Barcelona
Alhambra Palace – Granada
Located in the Andalucian city of Granada, Spain, the Alhambra is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Spanish Property of Cultural Interest. Is it any wonder the site is visited by millions every year? Originally built as a fortress, the Alhambra has a very strong cultural significance for Spain. It was originally built in 889 and reinforced around the 11th century by the Moorish King. Later, the Sultan of Granada turned it into a Royal Palace, further adding to the grand and unique architecture of the building.
If you only ever get one chance to visit one of Spain’s top attractions then it should be the Alhambra. Its true beauty and allure will become all apparent once your there in person. The splendour of this world renowned Arab palace never ceases and to think not that many years ago it was used by the homeless and poor as place to shelter until it was fully restored to its former glory.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Granada
Segovia Roman Aqueduct
A symbol of Rome’s influence in Spain, the Aqueduct is generally believed to be built around the first century. There’s no readable inscription found around the structure, which makes it hard to determine.
What’s sure though is that the Aqueduct is an important piece of history and serves as a landmark of Segovia. In fact, the Aqueduct is featured on the city’s coat of arms and is continuously preserved despite the fact that it is no longer functional.
Made of granite blocks, the structure started to decay around the 19th century, therefore preventing it from properly storing water.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Segovia
The Kingdom of Asturias
The Kingdom of Asturias rose and fell in a span of decades, but the architecture they left behind remains a wonderful symbol of Spanish development. Visiting this small community nowadays, you’ll find yourself facing several churches with a pre-Romanesque architecture.
Some of these include the San Miguel de Lilio, the Cathedral of San Salvador, Santa Maria del Naranco and more. The structures themselves aren’t that big, but the design and details are exquisite. It is said that the churches are symbols of the monarchy’s artistic nature.
One of the most popular structures built by an Asturian monarch is the La Foncalada. Although not necessarily a church, the La Foncalada managed to land in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. It is built on top of a spring and meant to serve as a source of potable water.
What’s interesting about this fountain is that it is built not for aesthetic reasons but for functional ones. Today, it is the only standing structure from the Middle Ages that functions as civil architecture.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Asturias
La Mezquita – The Great Mosque of Cordoba
Cordoba is a charming city located in the heart of Andalucia, Spain’s most southerly province situated between the great cities of Seville and Jaen. Cordoba was founded by the Romans in the 2nd Century and became on the most important cities under the guide to the emperor Augustus. The cities great era though came in the 8th century when it was conquered by the Moors. The city is best known for being home to La Mezquita The great Arab Mosque which dates back to 784 A.D. It became a World Heritage site in 1984. The Moorish kings built over 300 palaces, mosques and public buildings where erected to rival the marvels of Constantinople and Damascus. In the 13th Century Cordoba was recaptured by King Ferdinand III who turned the great mosque into a Catholic cathedral
A visit to Andalucia would not be the same without exploring the historic city of Cordobo. Not only can you visit the spectacular great mosque but so many authentic places such as the famous decorated garden patios, the Zoco craft market, Casa Andalusi, the Jewish quarter, the banks of the Guadalquivir River and the many eateries to enjoy delicious local recipes and great tapas.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Cordoba
The Royal Monastery – San Lorenzo de Escorial
The town of San Lorenzo is located around 50 kms North West of the Spain’s capital Madrid. Situated close to Mount Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range. The Town is home to the impressive Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo. The order to build the monastery came from King Philip II to commemorate the victory of the battle of San Quentin in 1557 over France. The stunning structure took over 20 years to build and within time became the burial ground of all the Spanish Monarchs, a tradition which remains to this day.
Visits to the Real Monasterio del Escorial in the past where deeply regulated, recently, they’ve become more relaxed, entrance tickets can be purchased on the day at the entrance ticket hall. The scale of the San Lorenzo Monastery can only truly be appreciated when you actually visit the site. It is just a short train or car ride to San Lorenzo and well worth visiting if you ever find yourself staying in Madrid or the surrounding area.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Escorial
Flamenco Music and Dancing
A wonderful symbol of Spanish culture, Flamenco is something that all tourists look forward to when visiting the country. What’s great about this cultural attraction is that it can be watched the whole year round and practically anywhere.
Flamenco is a type of Spanish music containing different elements including singing, dancing, hand clapping, and guitar. You can probably recognise Flamenco immediately thanks to the long, outstanding dresses worn by the women dancers, typically in flamboyant colours of red and blue. The dance became so popular that it was declared one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2010. In fact, the dance is taught and practised all over the world.
Only in Spain, however, can you watch the dance in its most accurate representation possible. Characterised by the emotional intensity of the steps and flaring passion between partners. Of course, those are just a few of the top cultural attractions around Spain. Regardless of what city you visit during your vacation, there’s sure to be several landmarks and activities that offer an exciting glimpse of this country’s culture.
El Prado Museum – Madrid
The Prado museum is located in the central Madrid as is recognised as home to one of the finest collections of European art dating from the 12th century up to the early 20th century. Here you will find works of art by the great masters including Goya, Rubens, Velazquez and El Greco. The museum currently houses around 8.000 drawings, 7,500 paintings and almost 5.000 prints.
Constructed to house the National History Cabinet by architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 on order from King Charles III El Prado museum is considered to be one the best of its kind and has become one of the visited sites in the world.
This is a must place to visit if you plan a trip to Madrid. The Museum is open most days from 10am to 8pm, and if you are on a tight budget you can get free entry between 6pm and 8pm daily. Check the official Prado Museum website for latest times and offers.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Madrid
The Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao
The Guggenheim museum is an architectural masterpiece located in the northern city of Bilbao in Basque country. Created by world renowned architect Frank Gehry the museum opened in 1997 and is home to a large selection of prominent and contemporary works of art. The showstopper though is the curvy titanium-clad building that houses the museum and is now a firm favourite place to visit in Spain.
The Guggehiem Museum is now a national treasure and well worth visiting. You can also take the opportunity to explore the rest of this historic city including the Casco Viejo (Old Town), on the banks of the Nervión River. Centred around Las Siete Calles, the seven original streets that date back to the 1400’s, a vibrant area both day and night and perfect area to stroll around.
The museum is open weekdays from 10am to 8pm ( Closed Mondays ) Check the Guggenheim website for full details.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Bilbao
The Historic City of Toledo
Toledo is beautiful and historic Spanish city located just 70km south of Madrid and is the capital of the Castille La Mancha region. Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 and is an absolute must visit if you wish to discover the rich artistic and cultural history of Spain.
The city of Toledo is surrounded by the meandering Tajo River and is truly a beautiful sight, especially at night when its twinkling lights and beautifully lit buildings and monuments can be seen from afar.
There is so much to see and visit in Toledo you will not be disappointed. Popular sites and attraction in Toledo include the Alcazar, the great defences wall, the El Greco Museum ,the Santa Domingo Monastery, the San Martin bridge with its two towers and the 15th Century San Juan de los Reyes Monastery.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Toledo
Mount Teide – Tenerife
Mount Teide is a living breathing volcano located on the Canary Island of Tenerife. If you visit Tenerife it would hard to miss from one point of other around the Island, however it looks even better up close and the area around Teide is spectacular with its unique moonlike landscape.
Mount Teide is Spain’s highest peak, rising to 3718 metres above sea level. This impressive volcano is testament to how nature’s violent side can create such monsters or beauty beneath perfect blue skies.
The terrain that surrounds Teide National Park is equally astounding, rivers of fossilised lava flow embrace the hillsides like melted candle wax and unique landscapes have been used in classic films such as Clash of the Titans and One Million Years BC. Its unworldly terrain is also a favourite place for scientists looking to test out space vehicles destined for other parts of our galaxy.
For great holiday snaps, stunning scenery and unworld-like landscapes a visit to Mount Teide is a must and well worth the effort
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Tenerife
The City of Arts and Science – Valencia
Valencia is one of the largest cities located on the mid western Eastern coast of mainland Spain. The impressive City of Arts and Science is an entertainment based cultural and architectural complex that will keep you occupied for days on end. Fastly becoming on the most important tourism destinations in Spain the complex is made up of three main water themed areas.
Thers is a fascinating Aquarium which houses the largest marine and aquarium park in the Europe. An Oceanographic centre is situated mainly underground and houses a marshland, wetland areas and mangrove swamps. There is also a Dolphinarium, one of the largest in Europe with a seating capacity for over 2.000 people and holds around 23 million litres of water !. As you would expect the Dolphinarium provides great entertainment for all the family.
The City of Arts and Science is open most days and entrance to the various attractions start at around 8€ per person. Click here for more information and buy tickets.
» For places to stay check out accommodation in Valencia
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