The incredible country of Spain holds so much to discover, from its breathtaking beaches to architectural masterpieces and can’t-miss cultural traditions. What travellers may not know is Spain ranks third in being home to the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world, with a total of 48 sites.
World Heritage Sites are designated as such for being places on Earth of exceptional universal value to humanity. Any potential UNESCO World Heritage Site must meet at least one out of 10 criteria to receive the honour of being named a World Heritage Site. These cultural and natural treasures are protected so future generations can enjoy and appreciate them for years to come.
With so many UNESCO World Heritage Sites to choose from across Spain, read on for inspiration highlighting some of the magical sites to see in Spain.
It’s impossible to think of Spain without its world-renowned architecture coming to mind. Beyond Barcelona’s iconic works from Antoni Gaudi, including arguably the most well-known Sagrada Familia, Spain holds many other architectural marvels to explore.
1. Palmeral de Elche, Alicante
The Palmeral de Elche isn’t a building or structure, it’s a landscape of groves of date palms. Home to around 200,000 palm trees, the Palmeral was planted by the Romans and dates back over 1,000 years to the Arab period of Elche, when the watering system was inherited from the Al-Andalus culture. The city of Elche also boasts two additional cultural World Heritage sites: the Museo Escolar de Pusol and the Mystery Play of Elche.
The Old Town of Segovia in central Spain and its famed Roman Aqueduct were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. In ancient times, the notable 160 arches delivered drinking water to the people of Segovia, and it remains one of the best-preserved elevated Roman aqueducts today, having survived over 2,000 years. While there, visit the Alcázar of Segovia and see the city’s medieval and Moorish architecture.
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3. Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Grenada
With breathtaking palaces, fountains and gardens, be sure to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alhambra guided by a Local Specialist. Nearby, take time to walk the mesmerising maze of the Albaicín to take in the Moorish splendour and see the ancient treasures housed in the Royal Chapel.
4. Casa Batlló, Barcelona
If your aim is to take in all the stunning architecture there is to see in Spain, you can’t skip Barcelona. Seven of Antoni Gaudí’s works are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Casa Batlló, a masterpiece sometimes overshadowed by Gaudi’s more famous designs, but equally remarkable and definitely worth a visit!
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If history and ancient art are of interest, Spain will not disappoint! The country itself is steeped in rich, well-preserved history, and you can discover its story through its well-preserved legacies.
5. Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain
In Northern Spain, take a trip back in time and visit the cave of Altamira, home to paleolithic cave art recognised as some of humanity’s earliest accomplished art. Often referred to as the ‘Sistine Chapel of Prehistoric Art,’ a Local Specialist will guide you through the details and historical significance of these works.
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Beyond the culturally significant UNESCO sites to see in Spain, the country has several significant natural sites to see as well. From magical mountain ranges to stunning national parks, its natural environment UNESCO sites are worth venturing off the beaten path for.
6. Beech Area of Montejo de la Sierra
Approximately an hour’s drive outside of Madrid, you can catch a glimpse of the UNESCO-designated ‘Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe’ in the Beech Area of Montejo de la Sierra. Once found in only a few isolated areas of Spain, Beech trees can now be found across six different areas of Spain.
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Spanish culture is quite unique and based on several ancient influences, with several traditions remaining alive and well today and still celebrated around the world. From festivals to famous dishes, ‘Dive Into Culture’ on your Spanish adventure with Trafalgar.
Seville, Spain is known to be the home of the iconic dance of flamenco, set to a fiery beat showcasing passion, drama and the art of improvisation. You can seek out the dance at bars or cafés cantantes anywhere in Spain, however Seville’s intimate, specially-designed flamenco theatres – tablaos – truly set the perfect scene. The tradition itself is a cultural marvel, and the genre and dance style have been deemed a cultural treasure by UNESCO. Experience the magic of flamenco in Seville while savouring a delectable three-course meal for an unforgettable evening.
8. Patios de Córdoba
The Historic City Centre of Córdoba and its great Mosque influenced centuries of culture and architectural design in the region, which you can visit and discover alongside a Local Specialist on a Trafalgar tour. If you visit in the first two weeks of May, you can also explore the Patios de Córdoba, a festival celebration listed as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. Every year since 1921 a competition of Córdoba’s courtyards takes place, with residents decorating their homes with elaborate flowers hanging from walls, planted in beds and pots in an attempt to win a prestigious award. In addition to the beautiful display of decorated patios, the festival offers performances from world-class singers and dancers, plus free flowing local wine and plenty of authentic tapas to enjoy.
9. Fallas, Valencia
Valencia is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the group of buildings formally recognised as La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia and the Fallas Festival of Valencia. The festival runs for one week in mid-March and is a celebration of the beginning of spring. Valencia also happens to be where the traditional dish of paella was created, so be sure to indulge and delight all of your senses on your trip to Spain’s third largest city.
What are some of your favourite UNESCO World Heritage Sites you’ve visited? Share your thoughts and comments below…