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

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

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

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

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

Ávila Cathedral

The Cathedral of Ávila has Romanesque and Gothic architectural traditions. It was planned as a cathedral-fortress, its apse being one of the turrets of the city walls. It is surrounded by a number of houses or palaces. It is not known exactly when the construction of the Cathedral began, there being two theories. One states that Alvar García started its construction in 1091 inside the remains of the Church of the ...
Founded: 1091 | Location: Ávila, Spain

Tower of Hercules

The Tower of Hercules (Torre de Hércules) is an ancient Roman lighthouse on a peninsula about 2.4 km from the centre of A Coruña. The structure is 55 metres (180 ft) tall and overlooks the North Atlantic coast of Spain. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009. It is the second-tallest lighthouse in Spain. The tower is known to have existed by the 2nd century, built or perhaps rebuilt under Trajan, possibly ...
Founded: 2nd century AD | Location: A Coruña, Spain

El Escorial

The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, commonly known as El Escorial, is a historical residence of the King of Spain about 45 kilometres northwest of Madrid. It is one of the Spanish royal sites and has functioned as a monastery, basilica, royal palace, pantheon, library, museum, university and hospital. El Escorial comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: the royal ...
Founded: 1563 | Location: San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain

Alcalá de Henares University

Founded by Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros in the early 16th century, Alcalá de Henares was the world"s first planned university city. It was the original model for the Civitas Dei (City of God), the ideal urban community which Spanish missionaries brought to the Americas. It also served as a model for universities in Europe and elsewhere. The property includes a magnificent complex of historic buildings, such as the ...
Founded: 1499 | Location: Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Externsteine Stones

The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.

In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.

The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.

The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.