Spain’s numerous artistic, architectural, and historical sites exhibit a rich cultural past that dates back many centuries. Thanks to these countless cultural highlights, you are fully aware of the nation’s culture, innovation, and events. With its complex carvings and soaring spires, the magnificent Gothic buildings, including Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia and Burgos Cathedral, stand out among the architectural achievements.
One of the best examples of Moorish architecture and design is still the Alhambra Palace and castle complex in Granada. Roman engineering and architecture are impressively displayed in the aqueducts of Segovia and Tarragona. There are several medieval castles in the area, ranging from the Alcazar of Segovia with its powerful stone defences to Cinderella’s Castle in Segovia with its whimsical spires.
Remains of Roman temples, Muslim mosques, medieval churches, and more may be found in cities like Cordoba in just a few small places, resulting in visually magnificent complexes. Spain had a boom in modernist architecture, best typified by Antoni Gaudi’s fantastical creations in and around Barcelona. Besides buildings, unusual landscapes, like the Piqueos of Cuenca, where homes are carved into vibrant cliffs, or the salt flats and lagoons of Cabo de Gata, demonstrate the enduring interaction between nature and human creation.
The fundamental works of masters such as Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Diego Velazquez, whose paintings now grace the hallways of historical institutions such as the Prado, Thyssen, and Reina Sofia, reveal Spain’s cultural history. Cathedrals are decorated with religious artwork and altarpieces, and palaces and castles are decorated with colorful tilework and ornate Mudejar ceilings.
20 Top Cultural Attractions in Spain
Since there are so many locations with exceptional beauty and a rich history, selecting the finest cultural attractions in Spain might be challenging. Here are 20 places you should visit at least once in your life, though.
- Sagrada Familia Gothic Church – Barcelona
- Alhambra Palace – Granada
- Roman Aqueduct – Segovia
- The Kingdon of Asturias
- La Mezquita- The Great Mosque of Cordoba
- The Royal Monastery – San Lorenzo de Escorial
- Flamenco Dancing – Andalucia
- El Prado Museum – Madrid
- The Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao
- Historic City of Toledo
- Mount Teide – Tenerife
- The City of Arts & Science – Valencia
- Palma Cathedral, Palma de Mallorca
- Monasterio de Piedra, Zaragoza
- Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela
- Plaza Mayor in Salamanca
- Royal Palace (Palacio Real), Madrid
- Dalt Vila – Ibiza
- Park Güell – Barcelona
- Retiro Park – Madrid
1. Sagrada Familia Gothic Church – Barcelona
The most popular tourist destination in Spain yearly is the magnificent Roman Catholic Church known as the Sagrada Familia. This Barcelona cultural monument is well-known and is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Sagrada Familia is a church, yet it has a highly distinctive exterior from other places of worship.
The interior’s five aisles and Latin cross-like floor arrangement make it even more stunning. The columns of the chapel are designed to imitate trees and branches. The most educated tourists will find this nation a great treasure to discover.
2. Alhambra Palace – Granada
Granada, Spain’s Andalucian capital city, is home to the Alhambra, a Spanish Property of Cultural Interest and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Is it surprising that millions of people visit the website each year?
The Alhambra Palace, which was initially built as a defense, is of great cultural significance to Spain. The Moorish King had it fortified sometime after its initial construction in 889. Later, it was turned into a Royal Palace by the Sultan of Granada, increasing to its splendor.
The Alhambra should be your first stop if you ever can see one of Spain’s finest attractions. Once you are there in person, you will see its full beauty and attraction. The beauty of this famed Arab palace is unending, and it is incredible to recall that it was once a sanctuary for the needy and homeless before being entirely restored to its former splendor.
3. Roman Aqueduct – Segovia
The Segovia Aqueduct, a reminder of Rome’s influence in Spain, is often dated to the first century. It’s hard to determine because no writing can be read around the building.
The Aqueduct is still there and is shown on the city’s coat of arms even though it is no longer in service. The granite-block building began to deteriorate in the late 19th century, making it unable to hold water as it should have.
4. The Kingdon of Asturias
The Asturian Kingdom came and went over several decades, but the beautiful building they left behind is still a magnificent reminder of Spanish history. There are numerous pre-Romanesque-style churches in the area. San Miguel de Lilio, the Cathedral of San Salvador, Santa Maria del Naranco, and others are a few of these. Although the buildings are small, the architecture and attention to detail are excellent. The cathedrals are said to reflect the artistic side of the monarchy.
The La Foncalada is one of the most well-known buildings erected by an Asturian king. The La Foncalada made it onto UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites despite not being a church. Built above a spring, it is intended to serve as a supply of drinking water. It is the only remaining Middle Ages building that is still in use today and serves as civic architecture.
5. La Mezquita- The Great Mosque of Cordoba
In the center of Andalucia, Spain’s most southern region, between the renowned towns of Seville and Jaen, sits the picturesque city of Cordoba. The Romans established the City of Cordoba in the second century, and under the direction of the emperor Augustus, it rose to prominence as one of the most significant towns.
The Moors’ conquest of Cordoba in the eighth century ushered in the city’s heyday. They built the enormous Arab mosque, which was completed in 784 AD and was designated a World Heritage site in 1984. More than 300 palaces, mosques, and public structures were constructed by the Moorish Kings to compete with the wonders of Constantinople and Damascus. King Ferdinand III of Cordoba retook the city in the 13th century, and he converted the enormous mosque into a Catholic cathedral.
Any vacation to Andalucia must include a visit to the historic city of Cordoba. You may explore the magnificent big mosque in addition to many other fascinating locations, like the Jewish neighborhood, the Roman Bridge that crosses the Guadalquivir River, the Zoco artisan market, Casa Andalusi, and the wonderfully designed garden patios.
6. Flamenco Dancing – Andalucia
Flamenco is a fantastic representation of Spanish culture and something that all visitors to the nation look forward to seeing. This cultural destination has the advantage of being accessible year-round and virtually anyplace. Spanish music called flamenco includes guitar, hand clapping, dancing, singing, and other components. Flamenco is undoubtedly instantly recognizable due to the long, stunning gowns that the female dancers wear, which are generally in colorful shades of red and blue.
It is currently taught and practiced all over the world and is distinguished by the emotional intensity of the steps and flamboyant passion between couples. In various locations around Spain, you may witness flamenco performances. The locations are referred to as “Tablaos,” with the most well-known ones being in Seville and Granada.
7. The Royal Monastery – San Lorenzo de Escorial
About 50 kilometers to the northwest of Madrid, the capital of Spain, lies the village of San Lorenzo, which is near Mount Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountain range. The spectacular Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo, built by King Philip II to honor the defeat of France at the Battle of San Quentin in 1557, is located in the Town. The spectacular structure, whose construction lasted more than 20 years, finally served as the last resting place for all of Spain’s monarchs, a tradition that is still in use today.
Only when you are there in person can you completely understand the size of the San Lorenzo Monastery. San Lorenzo is easily accessible by train or automobile and is a must-see if you ever find yourself visiting Madrid or the surrounding region. Previously, it was against the law to enter the Real Monasterio del Escorial. Recently, however, restrictions have been lifted, and visitors can now purchase access tickets at the entrance ticket hall on the day of their visit.
8. El Prado Museum – Madrid
One of the best collections of European art may be seen in the Prado Museum, which lies in the heart of Madrid. Famous painters’ works may be found, including those by Goya, Rubens, Velazquez, and El Greco. Approximately 8,000 sketches, 7,500 paintings, and nearly 5,000 prints are now on display in the museum.
The National History Cabinet was housed at the El Prado museum, which Juan de Villanueva designed in 1785 under the command of King Charles III. The Museum is accessible most days from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and free admission is available between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. daily.
9. The Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao
The Guggenheim Museum is a marvel of architecture located in the northern city of Bilbao, Basque Country. A sizable collection of significant and contemporary artworks is housed in the museum, which Frank Gehry, a renowned architect, constructed and which debuted in 1997. The curved titanium-clad structure that houses the museum, on the other hand, is a solid favorite with Spaniards.
The remainder of this historic city, including the Casco Viejo (Old Town), which is situated along the Nervión River, may be explored during your stay in Bilbao. The district’s seven main streets, Las Siete Calles, which date back to the 1400s, are at its core. It is a busy area both during the day and at night. The museum is open during the week from 10 am to 8 pm (Mondays are closed).
10. Historic City of Toledo
The capital of Castille La Mancha, Toledo is a stunning and ancient Spanish city that is about 70 kilometers south of Madrid. Toledo is a wonderfully stunning sight, especially at night when its dazzling lights and magnificently lighted buildings and monuments can be seen from a distance. Toledo is flanked by the flowing Tajo River.
You won’t be disappointed in Toledo because there is so much to see and do. Several of Toledo’s well-known monuments and tourist destinations include the Alcazar, the Great Wall of Defense, 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 Convent.
11. Mount Teide – Tenerife
On the Canary Island of Tenerife, there is a live volcano named Mount Teide. However, it seems much better up close, and the area around Teide is magnificent with its singular moonlike terrain. Tenerife is easy to miss from one point to another throughout the Island. Spain’s tallest mountain, Mount Teide, rises 3718 meters above sea level.
Teide National Park is surrounded by similarly amazing topography; rivers of fossilized lava flow over the hillsides like melted candle wax, and the distinctive vistas have been featured in classic movies like Clash of the Titans and One Million Years BC. Scientists who want to test out spacecraft intended for faraway areas of our galaxy love to use its otherworldly environment. If you want stunning holiday images, breath-taking vistas, and otherworldly panoramas, a journey to Mount Teide is necessary and well worth the effort.
12. The City of Arts & Science – Valencia
One of Spain’s major cities, Valencia, is situated on the country’s western and eastern coasts. You may stay occupied for days on end in the magnificent City of Arts and Science, a cultural and architectural complex that places a strong emphasis on entertainment.
The largest marine and aquarium park in Europe is housed in a magnificent aquarium. An oceanographic center with a marshland, wetland habitats, and mangrove swamps is primarily underground. There is also a Dolphinarium, one of the biggest in all of Europe, with over 2,000 seats and a capacity for almost 23 million liters of water!
13. Palma Cathedral, Palma de Mallorca
A true portrayal of Palma de Mallorca is the Church of Santa Maria of Palma (Cathedral of St. Mary of Palma), which was erected where the main mosque for Arabia stood under the rule of the Moors. Besides to its interesting past, this Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral, popularly known as “La Seu” or “Cathedral of Light,” astonishes tourists with its exquisite architecture and distinguishing characteristics.
The cathedral has a stunning central nave that is one of the highest in Europe, a giant rosette made up of more than 1,200 pieces of colorful glass arranged into patterns and floral embellishments, and more.
14. Monasterio de Piedra, Zaragoza
Monasterio de Piedra (Stone Monastery) is a must-visit destination for outdoor adventure seekers in Spain. Stunning waterfalls, bizarre rock formations, a garden, a mirror lake, and an ethereal monastery with a more than 800-year-old history may all be found in this beautiful natural park. It is situated in the Iberian System’s mountain range not far from Zaragoza.
15. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela
One of the most significant ecclesiastical structures in Spain is the Santiago de Compostela Archcathedral Basilica, which was constructed in 1075 under Alfonso VI. In addition to marking the end of the Camino de Santiago route and being the purported last burial spot for St. James the Great, an apostle of Jesus Christ, the basilica is a historically significant pilgrimage site.
By the way, it’s worth touring Santiago de Compostela from top to bottom. The northwest Spanish city, which serves as the headquarters of the autonomous region of Galicia, has a lovely maze of medieval tenements. An architectural fusion of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles may be seen in the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
16. Plaza Mayor in Salamanca
Salamanca is well known for its university, which was founded in 1218 and is now a top choice for international students studying Spanish. Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor is the most spectacular in all of Spain, especially at night when it is lit. If you make it out this way, be sure to stop at the walled city of Avila as well.
17. Royal Palace (Palacio Real), Madrid
Although it is currently exclusively used for state functions, the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) is the formal residence of the Spanish royal family in Madrid. Visitors may go through Spanish history at the royal residence. It was constructed on the site of the former Alcázar, the Moorish stronghold, which was destroyed by fire in 1734. The historic city wall that surrounded this region may still be seen.
The intriguing Palacio Real, with its almost 3000 rooms and square design, was motivated by designs created by Bernini for the building of the Louvre Museum in Paris. You’ll come across a stunning staircase created by Sabatini, a Throne Hall with a Tiepolo-painted ceiling, and the Royal Armory, which houses the weapons and armor used by the kings of Spain since the 13th century, as you meander through the structure, the biggest operating royal palace in Europe.
18. Dalt Vila – Ibiza
The old town of Ibiza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is what Dalt Vila is alluding to. In order to enter the ancient town, which is surrounded by walls, one must cross a drawbridge. The constrained, cobblestone streets within will give you the impression that you’ve been transported back in time. You’ll get fantastic views of the surroundings from high atop the hill!
19. Park Güell – Barcelona
Park Guell is another of the Barcelona insider recommendations. One of the most well-liked tourist spots in Spain without a question is the park. The Park, which Antoni Gaud conceived and built between 1900 and 1914, is a collection of botanical characteristics and architectural elements. A UNESCO World Heritage Site status was given to the Park in 1984.
The elaborately detailed mosaic artwork that can be found on the main terrace and throughout the park is one of the park’s most well-known features. Due to the park’s popularity, there may be a wait to enter some areas (and to obtain a ticket), while other areas are open to everyone and are free to visit.
20. Retiro Park – Madrid
In the heart of Madrid, there is a sizable and stunning park called Retiro Park. How large? The park is around 125 hectares in size and has over 15,000 trees in it. Monuments and fountains may be seen all across the park.
You can see the park’s little lake in the image above. You may rent a boat from the park and use it to enjoy the sunshine. When the weather is beautiful, both tourists and locals visit Retiro to take a break from the heat and relax in the shade or the sun. To each his or her own!
In addition to its huge historical past, Spain boasts an endless supply of tourist sites and a rich tradition and culture. The most educated tourists will find this nation to be a great treasure to discover.