Planning a trip to Spain and need some destination inspiration? Here’s my guide to the 30 most famous landmarks in Spain.
Spain is a gorgeous country. It boasts a heady mix of diverse landscapes, world famous landmarks, massive cathedrals and iconic museums. Spain has a national obsession with ham (jamon Iberico), flamenco, wine, and tapas.
There are so many amazing things to see and do in Spain. In this guide, I describe 25 of the very best must see landmarks, for your Spanish bucket list.
From Barcelona’s patron saint Antoni Gaudi to Frank Gehry to Madrid’s Golden Triangle, we’ll travel through Spain soaking up culture along the way.
Many of these must see Spanish landmarks are UNESCO World Heritages sites. They could be mini-vacations in and of themselves.
The Most Famous Landmarks and Monuments in Spain
Here are my picks for the 30+ must visit landmarks in Spain to tick off your Spanish bucket list.
1. Alhambra, Granada
The Alhambra is probably the most famous landmark in Spain. It’s the world’s last and greatest Moorish fortress.
The Alhambra is one of the most visited sites in Spain, and even in the world. The orange toned Alhambra sits on a stunning piece of real estate – a high, mountainous location on Sabika Hill with sweeping views over Granada.
Alhambra became a UNESCO site in 1984. It’s a deeply affecting place. It’s so beautiful and enchanting, it’s difficult to process. Or to unglue your camera from your face.
The complex is Spain’s most beautiful monument. It’s vast. There are four must see sites: the Nasrid Palace, Charle V’s Palace, the Alcazaba, and the Generalife Gardens.
The Nasrid Palace is the finest example of the refined, intricate, and elegant architectural style of the Moorish civilization. Every inch of its rooms are decorated, top to bottom, with ceramic tiles, elaborate plaster work, calligraphy, filigreed windows, and stucco stalactite ceilings.
The Nasrid sultans didn’t limit themselves to building within Alhambra’s ramparts. Just beyond the walls lie the Generalife Gardens, one of the best preserved Nasrid estates.
Generalife was the lush leisure villa of the last dynasty of Moorish sultans. They spent their summers here to escape the intense heat. Generalife is considered one of Europe’s most beautiful formal gardens.
Tickets sell out lightening fast for the Alhambra. You can buy a skip the line ticket on Get Your Guide or a ticket on Viator. You may want to book a 2.5 hour small group guided tour or a 3 hour private tour, which also include skip the line tickets.
2. Casa Battlo, Barcelona
Antoni Gaudí ‘s Modernist masterpieces, now museums, are among Barcelona’s must see and most visited sites. To many Catalonians, Barcelona is Gaudí. Or at least he’s the city’s unofficial saint.
Casa Batlló is Gaudí at his hallucinatory, dreamlike best. The building is a must see site in beautiful Barcelona, especially if you love Modernist architecture or are on the Gaudí trail in Barcelona.
For Casa Batlló, Gaudí conjured a building in the image of a dragon. The strange bone-like facade commands your attention.
It’s studded with skull mask balconies and capped by a sinuously scaled roof with a solitary sword-like tower.
At Casa Batlló, the entire facade is a kaleidoscope of blue, mauve, and green tiles. A marine-like surface. Though it’s a bit hard to see, the facade’s actually uneven and slightly wavy, like a calm sea.
Casa Batlló’s interior is filled with beautiful tiles, curved wood, and stained glass — all in organic forms and curvy shapes. The motif is an undersea grotto lit by skylights shaped like tortoise shells. The ceiling droops and swerves poetically.
3. La Pedrera | Casa Mila, Barcelona
One of my very favorite Barcelona sites is the intriguing Casa Milà. Or, as it’s more commonly known, La Pedrera, which translates to “The Quarry.”
It’s a masterpiece of nature. In classic Gaudí fashion, the nature theme is visible in its overall look and down to the tiniest detail. Everything carried forward the theme.
The building ripples and waves like a burbling ocean. There’s not a right angle or straight line anywhere. Gaudí wanted it to resemble a “petrified wave.” To that end, he used contrasting elements — a heavy stolid stone facade and a wavy shape.
The undulating facade isn’t a load bearing wall. It’s a self supporting curtain wall that connects to the internal structure of each floor via curved iron beams.
This gave Gaudí freedom to create irregular floor plans. It was one of his cutting edge architectural innovations.
Inside, the tiled entrance courtyard resembles an underwater forest. From the courtyard, look up for an incredible views.
Light pours in from the roof to the interior apartments. Unlike the dough-ish color of the exterior, inside it’s a marine wonderland with sea foam ceilings.
La Pedrera’s iconic rooftop is astounding, far superior to Casa Batllo. It has winding pathways and a spiky forest of 30 chimneys.
The chimneys are dubbed the “Garden of Warriors.” They resemble storm troopers from the Star Wars movies. You also have a nice view of Sagrada Familia from the roof.
4. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous landmarks in Spain and the crowning jewel of Barcelona. Gaudí’s wildly creative opus. Construction began on the “Sandcastle Cathedral” in 1882.
This famous landmark in Spain is still unfinished (but ongoing). When it’s completed, Sagrada Familia will be the world’s largest church with 18 tapering towers.
The exterior appears like a strange looking sandstone mountain. It’s a hodgepodge of architectural styles with spindly towers of various heights.
There are three facades –the Nativity, Passion, and Glory facades. Each appear like huge altarpieces, depicting different themes.
But the interior is entirely sublime. Gaudi intended it to be a retreat into nature. And, indeed, you could be standing in a majestic star-lit white forest. It’s an astonishing space, an alternative reality full of detail. You’ll gasp when you enter.
Be prepared to crane your neck skyward at the starry ceiling. The ceiling and stained glass are absolutely mesmerizing. You can’t help but be slack jawed.
The interior is effectively a spiritual sculpture, reinvented as architecture. The nave has shimmering gold tiles on the floor. It’s lined with 36 pale columns in different heights and widths. The columns form a forest, branching out like trees.
For more information on this must see monument, here’s my complete guide to visiting Sagrada Familia.
Entry is timed, and tickets sell out quickly. You will definitely want to buy your ticket online in advance.
If you decide to visit, you may want to book a guided tour. There are several options you can choose from.
- a 1.5 hour skip the line guided tour
- a 2 hour skip the line guided tour
- a 2 hour skip the line private tour
- a 3 hour skip the line private tour
- a 1.5 hour guided tour with tower access
5. Park Guell, Barcelona
Park Güell might be Gaudí’s most fantastical creation. It’s a 45 acre public park and garden complex located on Carmel Hill in Barcelona. It’s a little wonderland and must visit landmark in Spain.
Initially, Eusebi Güell asked Gaudí to design a mini city with luxury homes. Gaudí worked on the project from 1900-14. But the plan backfired; it was a commercial flop. Only 4 of the planned 60 houses were built.
Before the plug was pulled, Gaudí had created a plaza, two Hansel and Gretel gatehouses, a serpentine bench, colonnaded walkways, and steps.
He actually purchased one of the homes and lived there for almost 20 years before he moved into Sagrada Família.
The most famous icon at the Park Güell is the multicolored mosaic lizard known as “El Drac,” or the dragon. Gaudí collaborated with Joseph Maria Jujol, a much younger architect, on the tile work.
Most of the park is free to visit and provides some nice views over the city. But the central Monumental Zone has a fee.
Most of the Park Guell is free to visit and you’ll have some nice views over the city. But you’ll need a ticket to access the central Monumental Zone.
6. Palau de la Musica Catalana, Barcelona
Palau de la Música Catalana is a gaudy rose-covered wonderland and must see site in Barcelona. This magnificent concert hall was designed in 1905-08 by Lluis Domènech i Montaner — an architect who was just as famous as Gaudi at the time.
You have to see it to believe it. Musicians love its acoustics. Tourists love its unique design. It’s a veritable symphony of stained glass, mosaics, sculptures.
Palau de la Musica is located along a claustrophobic, densely packed street in the Gothic Quarter. Montaner countered the claustrophobia with color and levity.
The arches and intricate mosaic columns draw your eye up to the roofline. Stained glass windows bring in the natural light.
You begin at the marble Lluís Millet Grand Staircase, named after a famous Catalan composer. As you as ascend, gaze up at the eye catching ceramic glazed ceiling. You’ll enter a waiting area, the Lluís Millet Hall.
The hall is enveloped in massive stained glass windows. Parts of the panels are clear so you can see the dramatic mosaic columns outside by Sala Millet.
The auditorium is almost overwhelming. The piece de resistance is the intricate stained glass ceiling by Antoni Rigalt. Iron and glass chandeliers create a starry night effect.
Sculptures curve up the sides of the stage. You’ll see a glowering Beethoven and Valkeries from Richard Wagner’s operas.
READ: Hidden Gems in Barcelona
7. Royal Palace | Palacio Real, Madrid
The Bourbon dynasty built the palace in an Italianate Baroque style. It served as the supersized royal residence until 1931. Of its 2800 rooms, only 50 are open to visitors.
The highlights of this landmark palace in Spain are the opulent Throne Room, the Gala Dining Room (seating thousands), the Royal Armory, the apartments of Carlos II, and the Gasparini Room. Each room reflects a different historic period and decorative style.
The palace is also renowned for its painted frescos and the stunning artwork. Inside, you’ll find paintings by many artistic luminaries — Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, El Greco, and Caravaggio. There are also plenty of incredible tapestries, beautiful stuccoed ceilings, and lavish chandeliers.
8. Plaza Mayor, Madrid
The 17th century Plaza Mayor is the beating heart of Madrid. This lively square was once an open air theater hosting festivals, markets, bullfights, royal promenades, and the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition.
As you sit in one of the alfresco cafes in the center of Plaza Mayor, you can easily imagine these historical events.
Present day entertainment is more tranquil, though still as busy. Local artists paint pictures of bullfights, people queue up for food samples, and there’s a myriad of craft shops filled with visitors souvenir hunting.
The iconic square features symmetrical three story burgundy colored buildings, which are now expensive private apartments. In the center of the Plaza, there’s a statue of King Phillip III astride his mighty stallion.
If you happen to be in Madrid on a Sunday morning, you’ll find a bustling stamp and coin collector’s market.
9. Golden Triangle, Madrid
Madrid’s Golden Triangle is a triad of three absolutely world class art museums — the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza.
The Prado is special. It’s Spain’s cultural jewel, boasting one of Europe’s finest and most sensuous painting collections. The Prado is a must visit landmark in Spain for art lovers.
The Prado opened in 1819 as the Royal Museum of Paintings. Its artistic anchors are Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez, and Peter Paul Rubens. But there are also masterpieces by Titian, Bosch, and El Greco.
I’ve written previously about the highlights of the Prado and tips and tricks for visiting, so won’t repeat myself here.
But be sure to see the Hieronymus Bosch’ The Garden of Earthly Delights triptych, the Black Paintings of Francisco Goya (The Dog is my favorite), Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas, the newly restored Fra Angelico Annunciation, and José de Ribera’s intriguing The Bearded Woman.
Opened in 1992, the Reina Sofia is Madrid’s fantastic modern art museum. Its collection is comprised entirely of art work from 1900 to the present.
There’s a special focus on Spain’s favorite sons, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, and their respective schools of Cubism and Surrealism. The iconic star of the Reina Sofia is Guernica, Picasso’s grim depiction of the Nazi bombing of Guernica Spain in 1937.
The Reina Sofia is also a great place to get weird with Surrealist Salvador Dalì. Head to the Sabatini Building, 3rd Floor. Dalì’s quirky paintings reveal his obsessions, sexual fetishes, and terrors.
Housed in the Villahermosa Palace, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is named after art collector Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. Opened in 1994, the Thyssen museum offers something for everyone.
The museum mixes contemporary and classic art. It houses art works from every major period in Western art, from 13th century Italian Renaissance to 20th century Pop Art.
It also has an important collection of 19th century American paintings not found elsewhere in Europe. This is where you’ll find some fan favorites — Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, German Expressionists, and Surrealists.
You’ll find artists like Dürer, Caravaggio, Rubens, Sargent, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kirchner, Mondrian, Klee, and Hopper.
10. Altamira Caves, Cantabria Region
Just over a mile from the enchanting town of Santillana del Mar in northern Spain lies the 14,000 year old cave paintings of animals in the Altamira Caves.
This UNESCO-listed landmark in Spain is home to some of the best prehistoric rock art in the world.
The paintings were created during the Upper Paleolithic period. The well preserved charcoal and polychrome paintings depict a herd of now-extinct steppe bison, as well as deer, wild boar, and horses.
Access is strictly limited to small private tours. But there’s an exact replica of the caves in the Altamira Museum cave.
11. Royal Alcazar, Seville
The Royal Alcázar is one of the world’s greatest cultural treasures. It’s a centuries old complex of palaces and fortifications, lovely courtyards, and extensive gardens bursting with orange, purple, and green colors.
The alcazar is a breathtaking 10th century palace that King Pedro the Cruel gave a 14th century Mudéjar facelift.
Inside, the highlights are the Hall of the Ambassadors, the Courtyard of the Maidens, the Courtyard of the Dolls, and the Hall of Tapestries in the Gothic Palace.
The Ambassador’s Hall, or Throne Room, is the big showstopper in this stunning Spanish landmark. It’s nicknamed the “Half Orange” Room, in honor of its gilded cedar domed ceiling.
Outside, there’s a series of verdant lush gardens. They are an exotic, labyrinthian paradise, encompassing 80% of the Alcázar grounds.
Don’t miss the Baths of Maria De Padilla, King Pedro’s mistress. The baths are one of the Alcazar’s Game of Thrones filming locations, a place where the Sand Snakes plot.
Here’s my complete guide to visiting the magnificent Royal Alcazar. It’s my favorite place in all of southern Spain.
12. Seville Cathedral, Seville
Seville Cathedral is a massive Gothic affair. It’s the largest cathedral in the world.
In 1402, after vanquishing the Moors in the Reconquista, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella began work in earnest on a Gothic style cathedral. They wanted a showy display of Seville’s wealth, power, and influence.
There are 15 doors on the cathedral’s four facades and each one features a unique relief or carving. The nave is the longest in the world.
The glittering altar is elaborately detailed and finished in gold leaf. Along the sides, there are 80 chapels to explore.
You’ll find spires and reliefs depicting biblical events dedicated to saints. There’s a large mirror reflecting the intricate ceiling, which you’ll have to queue up to look into.
The Cathedral also houses the tomb of the explorer Christopher Columbus. Many places lay claim to bits and pieces of Columbus. But apparently DNA tests have confirmed that a bit of him is in Seville, maybe a shin bone or something.
13. Plaza Espana, Seville
The Plaza de España is one of the famous architectural landmarks in Seville Spain. It stands out in a city already overflowing with beautiful architecture.
It was built for the Ibero-American World Fair of 1929, where Spanish speaking countries enjoyed a year long mutual admiration festival. The park’s highlight is the Spanish Pavilion, the sweeping half circle structure with rose gold brick buildings.
Designed in an Art Deco style with some Moorish touches, the Plaza has the expected Spanish flair — lots of color and lavish embellishment. The tiles show historical scenes and maps from the 49 provinces of Spain arranged in alphabetical order.
There’s nothing to actually do here except check out the architecture, the alcoves, and the tiles. The plaza has been featured in the movies Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars Attack of the Clones.
14. Alcazar de Segovia, Segovia
Segovia makes the perfect easy day trip from Madrid. It’s crowning glory is its medieval castle, the Alcazar of Segovia.
Built atop a rock with pointy slate spires, the alcazar looks like a castle conjured from a medieval fairytale. Alfonso VIII lived in the fortress in the 12th century before architectural changes transformed it into a Gothic castle in the 13th century.
On a visit, you take a one way route through 11 rooms, including a wonderful terrace view. The Mudejar ceilings are exquisite and fully restored. The Hall of Monarchs is lined with busts of the 52 rulers of Castile and Leon.
Then, climb the 156 steps up a tight spiral staircase. From the Tower of John II, you’ll have 360 views of the city of Segovia.
In 1764, Charles II founded the Royal College of Artillery. You can also visit the Artillery Museum today.
15. Segovia Aqueduct, Segovia
The Aqueduct of Segovia is the city’s emblem. The aqueduct is one of the most amazing ancient landmarks in Spain.
It’s the best preserved example of Roman civic architecture in Spain. The aqueduct is described by the historian Frontinus as “the most solemn testimony of the Empire.”
Dating from approximately the 2nd century AD, it’s a tour de force of Roman engineering that stood the test of time. The aqueduct is over 200 years old.
It consists of 167 arches supported by pillars stretching 2500 feet. It’s made of 20,000 granite blocks with no mortar holding them together.
It was a functioning aqueduct into the 20th century. Now, it’s in a lively square of Segovia, part of everyday life. On Plaza de Azoguejo, a grand stairway leads from the base to the top.
16. City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
Spain is both old and startlingly modern. In Valencia, you’ll find Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s stunning suite of contemporary buildings known as the City of Arts and Sciences.
This landmark complex in Spain is a futuristic cluster of museums and art halls. There’s also an aquarium designed by another Spaniard, Félix Candela, which was used as a film set for Dr Who and Tomorrowland.
L’Oceanografic resembles a water lily and is Europe’s largest aquarium. It’s home to over 500 species of marine life from across the world.
The Principe Felipe Science Museum has interactive displays and demonstrations of scientific theories. The Hemisferic Cinema, with its spherical roof, is the venue for 3D shows.
17. Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela
The UNESCO-listed Cathedral Santiago de Compostela stands guard in the Plaza do Obradoiro square, where all roads in Santiago converge. This hallowed Galician landmark in Spain is the final stop on the mystical pilgrims’ journey.
Built in the Romanesque architectural style, construction started in 1075 during the reign of Alfonso VI. Over the years, Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical elements were added to the structure.
The Cathedral’s facade is the work of Fernando de Casas y Novoa. It’s a splendid examples of Spanish Baroque design.
Atop the middle steeple, St. James the apostle stands on a column to welcome pilgrims to his burial place. The Portico of Glory at the main entrance used to be the cathedral’s main facade. It displays 200 figurines from the Old and New Testament.
Inside, a darkened Romanesque nave gives way to a large gold altar with three representations of St. James. Pick up an audio guide because there’s not much English signage.
If you want to visit, you can book a skip the line ticket + tour of this famous landmark in Spain.
18. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Who can argue with Bilbao’s emblematic Guggenheim Museum?
The space age landmark in Spain, an ode to post-industrial optimism, itself is dramatic.
Both inside and out, the Guggenheim is an awe-inspiring blend of titanium, glass, and limestone. The scaly exterior evokes a silvery fish and the building’s wings the wind-filled sails of a ship.
Outside the museum lie some of its most interesting pieces of art, including: Jeff Koon’s 42 foot beflowered Puppy, Louise Bourgeois’ 30 foot Maman spider, Anish Kapoor’s Tall Tree and the Eye, and the newest piece Fujiko Nakaya’s The Fog Sculpture.
On the inside, the architecture continues to amaze. There’s a glass enclosed 50 meter atrium with a floral skylight. Light suffuses the place.
The Guggenheim’s modern art collection is on par with Europe’s best modern art museums. You’ll find works by Robert Motherwell, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, Eduardo Chillada, and Anselm Kiefer.
19. New Bridge, Ronda
Ronda is synonymous with its dramatic 18th century bridge, the Puente Nuevo. It’s one of Spain’s most famous landmarks. The New Bridge connects the Old Town and the New Town over the El Tajo gorge.
Built over 34 years, the New Bridge is 216 feet long and 322 feet high. Thick vertical supports rise up from the canyon walls.
A chamber in the central arch features an exhibit on the history of the bridge. Hike to the bottom of the gorge for great views.
You can book a guided walking tour in Ronda that includes the bridge and another landmark in Spain, the Ronda bullring.
20. Mosque-Cathedral | Mezquita, Cordoba
Dating from the 10th century, Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral, locally called the Mezquita, is a truly magnificent UNESCO site.
It’s one of the world’s most well- preserved Islamic buildings in the world and best known landmark in Spain.
In the 16th century, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella converted the Mezquita into a cathedral.
It’s a a snapshot of the sophisticated dual culture that once existed in southern Spain. Outside, a large courtyard (you can enter for free) welcomes you.
Inside, the Mezquita is vast — an eye catching forest of candy cane horseshoe arches. 800 red and blue granite columns are topped with double arches of alternating red brick and white stone.
Highlights of the Mezquita are the Mihrab (or high altar in a mosque), the Visigoth mosaics and ruins, the Royal Chapel, and the central golden altar.
Newly restored, the Christian altar makes it easy to forget you’re in a former mosque. The mosque also has a bell tower, which you can climb for dramatic views.
21. Plaza Mayor, Salamanca
Salamanca is a historic city in western Spain brimming with charm and beautiful architecture.
Its centerpiece, Plaza Mayor, is the ultimate Spanish plaza, one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It’s connected to Salamanca Cathedral by the Rua Mayor.
The gold toned plaza is lined with symmetrical Spanish-Baroque architecture. The Town Hall overlooks the proceedings.
The Arco del Toro leads to a covered market. The plaza honors cultural and heroes and conquistadors — Cervantes, Christopher Columbus, as well as kings and rulers.
Plaza Mayor is known as Salamanca’s “living room.” It’s full of cafes, shops, and restaurants. Students and others munch on jamon Iberico baguettes and sip wine. There’s often performances or parties. It’s beautifully lit up at night.
22. Burgos Cathedral
The town of Burgos, in northern Spain, is rightfully famous for its UNESCO-listed Burgos Cathedral.
It’s said that the entire history of Gothic art is reflected in the cathedral’s architecture and impressive collection of altars, choir stalls, chapels, and ornate decoration. The craftsmanship is exquisite.
Building began in 1221. The cathedral was embellished over the centuries, ending with a distinctly French style, from early Gothic to flamboyant Gothic. Except for the very top of the spires, the facade is very similar to Notre Dame in Paris.
Its most magnificent feature is the ornately decorated 13th century tympanum above the Door of the Sacramental.
Be sure to stop in at the Chapel of the High Constable (beautifully lit with a skylight), the Chapel of St. John (with frescos), the Chapel of the Presentation (with a famous painting by Il Piombo), and Chapel of St. Anne (spectacular altar).
Another highlight of this elegant cathedral is the Golden Staircase, Escalera Dorada. It was designed by a student of Michelangelo. You can’t access the stairway. But you can admire the elaborate wrought iron railing with angels heads.
23. UNESCO Dolmens, Antequera
Lying in sunny Andalusia, the white pueblo town of Antequera is a pretty hidden gem. One of Antequera’s most intriguing landmarks is its ancient megaliths.
This landmark in Spain was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016. The megaliths, or dolmens, are definitely an under appreciated UNESCO site, perhaps because it’s so new.
Antequera’s Bronze Age dolmens are among the oldest things on the planet. They’re essentially Spain’s Stonehenge. The dolmens were discovered between 1903-05 by the brothers Antonio and José Viera of Antequera.
At its 40th meeting, UNESCO decided to add the site to the list as a cultural asset. It deemed Antequera’s dolmens a remarkable engineering and architectural work of European prehistory and an important example of landscape monumentalism.
The megaliths are characterized by the use of large stone blocks that form chambers and spaces covered by roofs. A dolman is a single chamber tomb consisting of two of more vertical megaliths supporting a large flat horizontal table of stone, then covered with mounds of earth.
24. Amphitheatre, Itálica
Less than a half hour from Seville lie the Roman ruins of Italica. It’s one of the most famous Roman landmarks in Spain.
The Romans founded Italica in 206 B.C. It’s reputedly the birthplace of three Roman Emperors — Hadrian, Trajan, and Theodosius.
The amphitheater once held 25,000 people, and was the third largest in the Roman Empire. Italica is now the modern day Santiponce. To safeguard the ruins, Santipoce has applied for UNESCO World Heritage status.
In the hit HBO show Game of Thrones, Italica serves as the dragon pit of Kings Landing, which was basically a stable for the Targaryen dragons.
You can book a Game of Thrones tour from Seville.
25. Roman Theater, Merida
Not too far from Italica, you’ll find the UNESCO site of Merida. Merida is home to Spain’s most impressive Roman ruins.
If you purchase a combination ticket on site for €15, you can inspect the Roman Theater, amphitheater, crypt, House of Mitreo and Columbarium, and the Roman Circus.
The most impressive site is the RomanTheater of Merida. Built between 16 and 15 BC, the ancient building was designed to hold up to 6000 citizens.
It boasts a striking marble columned section that served as a backdrop for performances. The theater still hosts performances and you can see it lit up on a nighttime tour.
The Roman amphitheater isn’t as impressive as Italica’s. But it’s still worth a look for history buffs. Then walk over the Roman Bridge (reminiscent of the one in Cordoba) to explore the alcazaba and villa.
You can book a combination ticket for the theater and Alcazaba Castle.
26. Barcelona Cathedral
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter begins at the Pla de la Seu, where street magicians and human statues panhandle in front of Barcelona Cathedral.
The cathedral is a grand monument dating from the 13th to 15th centuries. Its official name is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia.
The cathedral’s Neo-Gothic facade is stunning. It’s not ancient, receiving facelifts in the 19th and 20th century.
Sit by the steps and absorb its grandiosity. You can visit the church for free from 8:00 am to 12:45 pm and 5:45 pm to 7:30 pm. Otherwise, entry is by donation.
Inside, the cathedral has a wide central nave and two side aisles, separated by colonnades. The cathedral has 28 richly decorated chapels, an ornate finely carved choir, and a peaceful cloister with bubbling fountains.
Behind the high altar is the Bishop’s chair. You’ll also find the crypt of Saint Eulalia, the patron saint to whom the cathedral is dedicated.
The cloisters are the highlight. Arcaded walkways surround a central courtyard filled with tropical trees.
A short elevator ride takes you to the top of the cathedral for stunning city views. For the best view of cathedral itself, take the elevator to the rooftop of the next door Hotel Colon.
27. Medina Azahara, Cordoba
Medina Azahara is the largest archaeological site in Spain. Destroyed during a civil war in the 11th century, this landmark in Spain is still only 10% excavated.
You can explore the private residences, guard houses, a basilica, a mosque, and gardens. The two highlights of the site are the House of Ya’far and the Abd-al-Rahman II Hall in the gardens.
At night, the tranquil ruins are lit up to good effect after dark.
If you’d like to book a tour to see this UNESCO site, click here for a wonderful 3 hour guided tour.
28. Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, Cordoba
Then, pay a visit the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, or Alcazar of the Christan Monarchs in English. It’s similar (but not as elaborate) as the Royal Alcazar in Seville, built in the Mudéjar style. The UNESCO World Heritage site was built in 1328.
The alcazar features an elaborate Moorish bathhouse, King Alfonso XI’s castle, and gardens. The gardens have ponds, reflecting pools, plantings.
The alcazar’s main tower is known as the “Tower of the Inquisition.” During the Spanish Inquisition, in 1482, the circular tower was used a prison, headquarters, and torture and interrogation chambers.
29. Cuenca’s Hanging Houses, Cuena
Undiscovered Cuenca is a dramatic UNESCO-listed medieval town in the region of Castilla la Mancha, the land of Don Quixote.
Cuenca is home to the gravity defying “hanging houses.” These cliffside houses cling precipitously to the top of vertical cliffs, jutting into thin air between two river canyons.
The best photo op is from the jaw dropping Puente de San Pablo, the bridge spanning a 130 foot gorge. The houses themselves offer spectacular vi3ws from they perch above the valley.
Cuena is an easy day trip from Madrid.
30. Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arantzazu
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arantzazy lies near the town of Onati. Onati has lavishly decorated Gothic and Baroque buildings and a mystical medieval atmosphere.
The Sanctuary of Arantzazu is an old Franciscan monastery. It’s of huge importance in the region and perched at the very top of a winding mountain road.
The sanctuary’s patron saint is the Virgin of Arantzazu. Not far from the sanctuary are the Arrikrutz Caves. They are home to several extinct species including cave lions.
31. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
The absolutely jaw dropping San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a magical spot about 45 minutes from Bilbao.
Gaztelugatxe is a must see natural landmark in northern Spain’s Basque Region. It’s a fantastical ancient stone foot bridge winding up to a 1,000 year old hermitage chapel on Spain’s Bay of Biscay. It’s a dramatic hike.
You’ll definitely want to stop, linger, and absorb the stunning views on the ascent. Along the bridge are smaller staircases that lead down to reflecting spots at the edge of the water.
Gaztelugatxe is now TV famous. In the wildly popular TV series Game of Thrones, Gaztelugatxe appears as Dragonstone — the haunting ancestral home of Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons.On a bright day, the views are unbelievable.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to famous landmarks in Spain. You may enjoy these other Spain travel guides and resources:
- 30+ Secret Towns in Spain
- Most Beautiful Places in Andalusia Day Trips From Bilbao
- 10 Day Road Trip From Madrid to Seville
- 10 Day Itinerary for Basque Spain
- 10 Day Itinerary From Barcelona to Bilbao
- 10-14 Day Itinerary for Spain’s Major Cities
- Six 1 Week Itineraries for Spain
- 10 Day Itinerary for Andalusia
If you’d like to visit Spain’s most famous monuments, pin it for later.