What are the highlights and attractions you can't miss while on vacation in Spain? Here you will find a list of the top 10 attractions of Spain!
Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Seville, Bilbao and what they are all called - the Spanish cities offer an incredible variety of sights and activities. Characterized by thousands of years of history and the influences of a wide variety of peoples, the country between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea attracts visitors with its breathtaking architecture (some of the most beautiful churches and palaces in the world are located in Spain), interesting museums and valuable cultural monuments.
Spain is also high on the list of Europe's most popular destinations for beach vacations. Apart from the beautiful islands, there are fantastic beaches in the coastal cities on the Mediterranean or along the Costa del Sol and Costa Brava. In the hinterland, varied landscapes await, from the mountainous Basque country in the north to the sand dunes of the Doñana National Park in the south - not to mention the fantastic cuisine and excellent wines. No wonder Spain is the world's most popular vacation destination after France!
To discover Spain you need a lot of time, because there is a lot to see! And we haven't even considered the many islands that are part of Spain (the Canary Islands, Mallorca, Ibiza, etc.). Even if it was hard, here are our top 10 sights of mainland Spain.
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Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain
La Sagrada Familia! This famous cathedral is the most important flagship of the city, is one of the top 10 sights of Barcelona and is considered by many to be the most beautiful church in the world. Antonio Gaudi's masterpiece has been under construction for over 100 years. The architecture to be discovered here is correspondingly ornate and rich in detail - it was worthy of an entry on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
With its gigantic towers (there are no less than 18 bell towers), the Sagrada Familia can be seen from far away. At its planned completion in 2026, it will be the tallest church in the world at 172 meters.
Finally, if you look closely at the countless figures, stained glass windows and reliefs, you will discover symbolic messages and biblical scenes everywhere. Gaudi wanted to make his church more monumental and innovative than any other and use it to explain the teachings of the church. A fantastic vision that comes very close to reality!
Alhambra in Granada
The Alhambra in southern Spain is one of the most beautiful and important castles in Europe and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located on the highest hill of Granada and offers a fantastic panoramic view from its towers and the idyllic Mediterranean garden.
The fortress is over 1000 years old and was already used by the Muslims as a seat of power. Where today the church of Santa Maria is located, once stood a mosque. Within the mighty castle walls you can also visit the richly decorated Renaissance palace of Emperor Charles V, the Alcazaba (the mighty defensive complex with imposing defense towers), the impressive Nasrid palaces, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of the Alhambra.
Tip: Granada is located directly on the sunny Costa del Sol, which is ideal for a beach vacation in Spain with numerous destinations!
Mezquita in Cordoba, Andalusia, Spain
The Mezquita combines the architecture of the south, east and west in a form that makes the spectacular building in the heart of Cordoba unique in the world. It is one of the largest mosques in the world - and from its center rises a Gothic cathedral.
The origin of the Mezquita was a Roman temple, followed by a Visigothic church, on whose remains a mosque was built in the 8th century, whose construction lasted about 200 years.
Among the sights of the Mezquita, besides the architectural mix of styles, are the ornate prayer niche, the interior with no less than 800 columns and a precious monstrance from the early 16th century.
Palacio Real in Madrid
The Palacio Real in the capital Madrid was once the residence of the Spanish royal family. The 500-meter-long building made of white limestone and granite was erected in the 18th century specifically as the ruler's residence. In the meantime, the royal family lives in the Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid. The Palacio Real is now only used as a locationfor cultural or official events, but is still one of the top 10 sights of Madrid.
The magnificent building houses over 3,000 rooms and halls, some of which can be visited. Among those open to the public are the Throne Room, the Mirror Gallery, the Halberd Room and the Palace Chapel. Also worth seeing are the Art Museum, the Weapons Collection and the Royal Pharmacy with recipes of the royal families of past times.
Tip: In the evening, admission is free (but the queue is longer).
El Escorial in San Lorenzo
Only about 50 kilometers from Madrid, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, is the nearest imposing royal residence, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site at that. The imposing palace El Escorial was built in the 16th century by order of King Phillip II, on the one hand to celebrate the victory over the French, on the other hand to fulfill his father Charles V's wish for an impressive burial place.
The monumental funeral palace with its magnificent basilica (almost all Spanish kings and queens are buried here) also houses a monastery, a school, a library, an architecture museum and an art museum within massive walls. The latter is especially famous for the "Battle Hall", which shows the most important battles of the Reconquista on gigantic paintings.
Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Sede in Seville
Spain is famous for its imposing churches. The magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Sede in Seville is clearly one of them. It holds the title of the largest Gothic church in the world and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Inside, masterful frescoes and paintings, spectacular carvings and the world's largest altarpiece, 23 meters high, impress. The final resting place of a world-famous explorer and navigator can also be found here. In a coffin carried by four statues rests none other than Christopher Columbus (or so they say).
Curious: The 100-meter-high bell tower has a Muslim past. It was built in the 12th century, when the Moors ruled Spain - and was then the minaret of a magnificent Almohad mosque. Today it can be climbed and offers a fantastic view over Andalusia's capital.
Toledo Cathedral also impresses with its sheer size and the magnificent decoration of its interior. A church stood here as early as the 6th century, but under Muslim rule it shared the fate of almost all Spanish churches and was converted into a mosque.
After the Reconquista, a cathedral of immense artistic and architectural value grew in height from the year 1227. The pompous portals, the more than 750 leaded glass windows, the ornate chapels, the grandiose decorated chancel and a richly decorated treasury leave no visitor unimpressed.
Tip: In Toledo starts the Ruta del Don Quijote, which leads through La Mancha in the footsteps of the famous hero of the novel.
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Next to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is probably the most famous church in Spain. It is especially well known to thousands of pilgrims every year, as it marks the long-awaited destination of a mostly strenuous journey: the Way of St. James.
Together with the entire old town of Santiago de Compostela, the cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its origins date back to the 1st century AD, when the bones of the martyr and apostle James were buried in a pagan mausoleum. Official start of construction is the year 830. What was then a small church is now the most important Romanesque building in Spain.
The atmosphere in the cathedral is tremendous! Everywhere you look into exhausted but happy faces. Relief and pride about the mastered pilgrimage are clearly visible to the praying people. And in the middle of the cathedral the 2m tall Botafumeiro swings at breathtaking speed up to the ceiling and spreads much needed incense smell....
Castillo de Ponferrada in Ponferrada
Those who visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela on the traditional way - as pilgrims on the Way of St. James - also pass the Castillo de Ponferrada. The massive castle was built by the Knights Templar to care for and protect pilgrims on their way.
Already the Celts built a fortress at this strategically favorable place high above the river Sil. The Romans also used the bulwark to defend the gold treasures from Las Médulas. At the end of the 12th century, the Order of the Temple took over at the behest of King Ferdinand II of León.
Around 200 years later, the 12 monumental towers were built, which, together with embrasures, drawbridges, battlements and battlements, give the fortress the appearance of a knight's castle straight out of a picture book - a truly spectacular sight!
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, Huesca
A vacation in Spain also promises attractive scenic sights and Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park is clearly a highlight among them. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is the oldest national park in the Pyrenees.
The dreamlike national park has four entrances, all leading to different ecosystems: Monte Perdido to the north, the Ordesa Valley to the west, the Ansiclo Gorge to the south and the Escuain Valley to the east. Visitor centers provide information about the sights and special places of Ordesa National Park.
The park, which covers a good 15,000 hectares, can be explored piecemeal by car, but best on foot. Campsites are available, and villages and farms can also be found within its boundaries.