UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture. According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later ...
Founded: 784 AD | Location: Córdoba, Spain

Seville Cathedral

Seville's cathedral, Santa Maria de la Sede, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and is recognised as UNESCO World Heritage. After its completion in the early 16th century, Seville Cathedral supplanted Hagia Sophia as the largest cathedral in the world, a title the Byzantine church had held for nearly a thousand years. History The basilica occupies the site of the great Aljama mosque, built in the late ...
Founded: 1401 | Location: Seville, Spain

Archivo General de Indias

The Archivo General de Indias ('General Archive of the Indies'), housed in the ancient merchants" exchange of Seville, is the repository of extremely valuable archival documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines. The building itself, an unusually serene and Italianate example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, was designed by Juan de Herrera. This struc ...
Founded: 1584 | Location: Seville, Spain

Oviedo Cathedral

The Cathedral of San Salvador of Oviedo today displays an array of architectural styles, from Pre-Romanesque to Baroque, including Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance parts. It began as a large Pre-Romanesque basilica in the present location of the Gothic cathedral, but nothing more is known about that first building, built by order of King Alfonso II of Asturias. The cathedral was founded by King Fruela I of Astur ...
Founded: 781 AD | Location: Oviedo, Spain

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Great, the apostle of Jesus Christ. It is also one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus. According the legend, the tomb of Saint James was rediscovered in 814 AD. The king Alfonso II of Asturias ordered the construction of a chapel on the site. This was followed by the first church in 82 ...
Founded: 1075 | Location: Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Cámara Santa

The Holy chamber of Oviedo (Cámara Santa de Oviedo) is a pre-Romanesque church built next to pre-romanesque Tower of San Miguel of the city's cathedral. Nowadays, the church occupies the angle between the south arm of the cathedral transept and a side of the cloister. It was built during the 9th century as a palace chapel for King Alfonso II of Asturias and the church of San Salvador of Oviedo. Apart from acting as ro ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Oviedo, Spain

Alcázar of Seville

The Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace, built for the Christian king Peter of Castile. It was built by Castilian Christians on the site of an Abbadid Muslim residential fortress destroyed after the Christian conquest of Seville. The palace, a pre-eminent example of Mudéjar architecture in the Iberian Peninsula, is renowned as one of the most beautiful. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal famil ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Seville, Spain

Alhambra

The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Su ...
Founded: 889 AD | Location: Granada, Spain

Burgos Cathedral

The Burgos Cathedral construction began in 1221 and was completed in 1567. It is a comprehensive example of the evolution of Gothic style, with the entire history of Gothic art exhibited in its superb architecture and unique collection of art, including paintings, choir stalls, reredos, tombs, and stained-glass windows. The plan of the Cathedral is based on a Latin Cross of harmonious proportions of 84 by 59 metres. The ...
Founded: 1221 | Location: Burgos, Spain

Historic City of Toledo

Successively a Roman municipium, the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom, a fortress of the Emirate of Cordoba, an outpost of the Christian kingdoms fighting the Moors and, in the 16th century, the temporary seat of supreme power under Charles V, Toledo is the repository of more than 2,000 years of history. Its masterpieces are the product of heterogeneous civilizations in an environment where the existence of three major r ...
Founded: around 200 BC | Location: Toledo, Spain

Generalife

The Palacio de Generalife was the summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid rulers of the Emirate of Granada. The palace and gardens were built during the reign of Muhammed II (1273-1302), Sultan of Granada, and later by Muhammed III (1302–1309). They were redecorated shortly after by Abu I-Walid Isma"il (1313–1324). Much of the garden is a recent reconstruction of dubious authenticity. The complex consists ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Granada, Spain

Cáceres Old Town

Cáceres is the capital and most populated municipality of the province of Cáceres. The city was declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO in 1986 because of the city"s blend of Roman, Moorish, Northern Gothic and Italian Renaissance architecture. Thirty towers from the Islamic period still stand in Cáceres, of which the Torre del Bujaco is the most famous. Cáceres has been a trade route city and a political centr ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Cáceres, Spain

Old City of Salamanca

This ancient university town of Salamanca was first conquered by the Carthaginians in the 3rd century B.C. It then became a Roman settlement before being ruled by the Moors until the 11th century. The university, one of the oldest in Europe, reached its high point during Salamanca's golden age. The city's historic centre has important Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque monuments. The Plaza Mayor, with i ...
Founded: 3rd century BC | Location: Salamanca, Spain

Aqueduct of Segovia

The Roman aqueduct of Segovia was built, probably in the 1st century BC, to bring water from the mountains to the hilltop settlement of Segovia. It was a massive feat of engineering as it ran for around 15 km and had to cross a wide valley before it entered the city. It was used to bring water to the town until the 19th century. Today the aquduct is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that also includes the old city and ...
Founded: 50 BCE | Location: Segovia, Spain

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos ('Castle of the Christian Monarchs') served as one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. It forms part of the Historic Center of Córdoba that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. In early medieval times, the site was occupied by a Visigoth fortress. When the Visigoths fell to the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, the ...
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Córdoba, Spain

Caliphal Baths

The Caliphal Baths are Arab baths in Córdoba. They are situated in the historic centre which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. The hammam ('baths) are contiguous to the Alcázar andalusí; ablutions and bodily cleanliness were an essential part of a Muslim's life, mandatory before prayer, besides being a social ritual. The baths were constructed in the 10th century, under the Caliphate of Al-Hakam II ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Córdoba, Spain

Walls and Alcazar of Segovia

Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of two rivers near the Guadarrama mountains, the Alcázar of Segovia is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape – like the bow of a ship. The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then. It is currently used as a museum and a mili ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Segovia, Spain

Albaicín

The Albaicín retains the narrow winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past dating back to the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, along with the Alhambra. In the Albaicín there are numerous monuments from different periods, mainly the Nasrid period and the Renaissance. The traditional type of house is the carmen, consisting of a freestanding house surrounded by a high wall that ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Granada, Spain

Vizcaya Bridge

The Vizcaya Bridge (commonly called Puente Colgante) links the towns of Portugalete and Las Arenas (part of Getxo), crossing the mouth of the Nervion River. It is the world"s oldest transporter bridge and was built in 1893, designed by Alberto Palacio, one of Gustave Eiffel"s disciples. The Engineer Ferdinand Joseph Arnodin was in charge, and the main financier of the project was Santos Lopez de Letona. It was t ...
Founded: 1893 | Location: Getxo, Spain

Medieval Walls of Avila

The city walls of Avila were built in the 11th century to protect the citizens from the Moors. They have been well maintained throughout the centuries and are now a major tourist attraction as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk around about half of the length of the walls. The layout of the city is an even quadrilateral with a perimeter of 2,516 m. Its walls, which consist in part of stones already u ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Ávila, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.