From medieval castles to dreamy mosques and futuristic museums, the list of landmarks in Spain is truly impressive. From Barcelona to Madrid and beyond, these Spain landmarks tell stories of the country’s rich history.
From Gothic to Gaudi to Gehry, Spain has stunningly beautiful and innovative monuments and landmarks. So, here are 15 landmarks in Spain to tick off your bucket list.
- 15 Spain Landmarks To Tick Off Your Bucket List
- 7 Famous Spain Landmarks
- 6 Landmarks in Madrid
- 11- Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas
- 12- Real Madrid Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
- 13- Atocha railway station
- Intangible Landmarks of Spain
- 15- Tapas bars
- How to travel around Madrid
15 Spain Landmarks To Tick Off Your Bucket List
7 Famous Spain Landmarks
1- Basilica La Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)
Conjured from the fertile imagination of one of the world’s most famous architects of all time, Basilica La Sagrada Familia is Gaudi’s most famous work.
He started building it in Barcelona in 1883 and worked on it right up until his death but even today, this world-famous landmark in Spain is still not complete.
When Gaudi took over the project from the original architect, who had planned a neo-Gothic building, it changed Barcelona forever taking its place as one of the most famous landmarks in Spain.
Gaudí managed to complete the chapel of San José, the crypt and the door of El Nacimiento.
2- Alhambra (Granada)
The Alhambra in Granada is a mysteriously alluring complex of buildings and gardens, with tree-lined walkways and flowing streams.
Once a major political hub for the Muslims in the west, the palace is a breathtaking geometrical landmark in Spain with rectangular courtyards and fountains.
It’s a fairytale palace with Nasrid buildings, which was once where the Muslim rulers lived, and the enchanting courtyard of the Lions with its magical fountains.
Alcazaba citadel is the oldest structure in Alhambra while the view from La Vela tower is stunning.
Spain’s most famous landmark can be explored while on an Andalucia road trip.
3- Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao)
A contemporary architectural masterpiece in the heart of Spain’s Basque Country, Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum is a Spain landmark that is truly awe-inspiring.
Built from titanium, glass and limestone, the futuristic design of the museum makes it one of the most impressive buildings of the 20th century.
The titanium curves and soaring glass gives the building a timeless look that would most likely not be out of place 100 or 200 years from now.
Even though there are a number of worthwhile things to do in Bilbao, spending time in this modern museum designed by Frank Gehry and admiring its architecture is one of the main reasons why you would visit this city.
4- Altamira Caves (Cantabria)
Two kilometres from the picturebook town of Santillana del Mar, lies 14,000-year-old cave paintings of animals in the Altamira Caves.
This World Heritage-listed site is home to some of the best prehistoric rock art in the world.
The paintings depict prehistoric scenes of animals such as bison, deer and wild boar using natural red ochre with black outlines.
Unfortunately, you’re not allowed into the original cave as the paintings are fragile but there’s a reproduction in the Altamira Museum cave.
5- Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (Santiago)
Of all the monuments in the World Heritage city of Santiago, the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela is the one that stands out as a landmark in Spain that has stood the test of time.
The cathedral is in Plaza del Obradoiro square and is where all roads into Santiago converge.
The most significant feature of this hallowed Spain landmark is the Cathedral is the final stop on the pilgrims’ journey.
Built the Romanesque architectural style, construction started in 1075 during the reign of Alfonso VI but over the years, Gothic, Baroque, Plateresque and Neoclassical extensions and improvements have been added to the original building.
The floor plan is a Latin cross and the La Gloria portico at the main entrance has a display of 200 figurines representing the Apocalypse.
Saint James the apostle stands on a column to welcome pilgrims.
The Cathedral’s Obradoiro façade, the work of Fernando de Casas y Novoa, is one of the most famous examples of Spanish Baroque design.
6- Alcázar Fortress (Segovia)
Built on to of a rock, Alcazar Fortress in Segovia looks like a fairytale castle straight out of a Medieval story.
Alfonso VIII lived in the fortress in the 12th century before architectural improvements turned it into a Gothic castle in the 13th century.
Charles II founded the Royal College of Artillery at the fortress in 1764 and it’s worth paying a visit to the Artillery Museum.
The fortress has secret passageways used to escape to the river and connected a number of palaces within the city.
Alcazar is a popular landmark in Spain and the palace is often packed with visitors.
7- Great Mosque (Cordoba)
Built in 785 by Emir Abdurrahman I, the Great Mosque of Cordoba is a representation of Spain’s Muslim art.
One of the unique things about this mosque is it was constructed on the site where the ancient Visigoth church of San Vicente once stood.
Inside the mosque is a labyrinth of columns with double arcades and horseshoe arches.
In 1523, the Christians conquered the region and built a cathedral inside the mosque.
The internal craftsmanship is impeccable and it’s impressive to see the Byzantine mosaic and crafted marble.
If you’re planning a trip to Spain also read:
6 Landmarks in Madrid
Watching Flamenco dancers, eating in tapas bars and exploring museums are some of the exciting things to do in Madrid and beyond.
Madrid is Spain’s capital and also home to several historic landmarks of Spain. So, if you only have time to visit Madrid, here are six Spain landmarks you can see in one visit.
8- Plaza Mayor
As you sit in one of the alfresco cafes in the centre of Plaza Mayor sipping on a café solo, a shot of strong black coffee, it is easy to envisage the bustling marketplace that once took place right in Madrid’s historical heart.
This lively town centre also played host to royal festivities, the ritual burning of heretics and gory bullfights.
Today’s entertainment, however, is a touch milder with local artists painting pictures of bullfights, people queuing up for promotional sachets of food samples and a myriad of busy craft shops filled with visitors hunting for souvenirs.
In the centre of the Plaza, there is a statue of King Felipe III astride his mighty stallion.
If you happen to be in Madrid on a Sunday morning, you’ll find a bustling stamp and coin collectors’ market here.
Stroll through Plaza Mayor into the charming Hapsburg section of town, known to the locals as the Austrian area.
In 1516 Carlos V rose to power and the Hapsburg reign flourished for almost two hundred years in Spain.
9- Palacio Real
In the 9th century, the Islamic Kingdom of Toledo built a defensive fort on the site where Palacio Real now stands.
As European palaces go, Palacio Real holds its own.
The current palace was built in Italianate baroque style by the Bourbons in the 18th century and served as the royal residence until 1931.
It’s a massive monument to a bygone royal era; with over 2800 rooms although only 50 are open to visitors.
Highlights include the opulent red and gold Throne Room, and a Gala Dining room which seats thousands.
The Royal Armoury displays some intriguing sets of armour that belonged to the various rulers of Spain.
The rooms of Carlos II feature a vault fresco known as The Apotheosis of Trajan by Anton Raphael Mengs.
The Gasparini Room has a delicate stucco ceiling and walls of embroidered silk. Watch the changing-of-the-guard on the first Wednesday of every month.
10- Museo Nacional del Prado
With over 8600 paintings, Museo Nacional del Prado is one of Europe’s best art museums.
The museum has an impressive array of Spanish paintings that – over the centuries – graced the walls of Spain’s royal palaces for the private viewing of the royal family.
Most of these royal paintings were never shown to the public and the court painters remained unknown until the Prado Museum collection was formed to display these national treasures.
There are 12th-century Romanesque murals, Renaissance works by El Greco and over 100 works by Goya, as well as paintings by Ribera, Murillo and Velazquez.
There are also works by French, Flemish, Dutch, German and Italian painters and sculptors.
The Prado Museum is the jewel in Madrid’s crown and a museum you should make a point of visiting, even if you aren’t a fan of museums.
The number of masterpieces on display is mind-boggling and the talent of the artists is absolutely inspiring.
It makes you wonder how so much talent could have ever existed in the past.
The gallery houses major European masterpieces, among them are Goya’s The Third of May, The Annunciation by Fra Angelico and Ribera’s Jacob’s Dream.
Fans of Harry Bosch (the detective in Michael Connelly’s novels who was named after the European master) will love seeing The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch.
Of course, besides the staple masterpieces, the museum also has exhibitions, such as a showcase of the works of Luis de Morales (one of the most significant Spanish Renaissance masters).
11- Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas
While bullfighting is a controversial sport in Spain today, it remains an undeniable part of Spanish history.
The best time to see a bullfight in Madrid is during the Feria de San Isidro (Festival of San Isidro) that takes place from mid-May through to June.
During the festival, there are fights every evening.
The festival has a variety of different fights including bullfights with novillos (young bulls), rejones (bullfights on horseback) and Goyesca fights (in period costume).
At other times, regular bullfights occur from March to October, generally on Sunday evenings at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas.
12- Real Madrid Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
Head to Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and join the crowds cheering for soccer star David Beckham and celebrity team Real Madrid.
Real Madrid recently beat Manchester United for the title of the world’s richest football club.
This 100 plus year-old team were the 2002 European Champions and have a massive fan base.
13- Atocha railway station
On 11 March 2004, terrorist bombs ripped through a number of trains heading into Atocha railway station killing 191 people.
On the second floor or the station, there is an area which is dedicated as a shrine to the victims of that bombing.
Visitors can leave hand-silhouettes and messages on one of the graffiti remembrance tubes that hang from the ceiling.
The station itself is worth a look for its iron-and-glass architecture that houses a 2,000-square-meter botanical garden.
Moist air is pumped into the centre of the station so that giant ferns, palms and massive banana trees are able to thrive next to lily-filled ponds.
Pop into the café beneath the rainforest for a drink and a snack.
Intangible Landmarks of Spain
Although Spain has many breathtakingly beautiful monuments that are landmarks across the country, thousands of years of history also means there are some amazing cultural landmarks to experience.
14- Flamenco Dancing in Madrid
Soak in the atmosphere and passionate rhythms of the Flamenco at one of Madrid’s many Tablao Flamencos.
Although the Flamenco originated in southern Spain, some of the best artists continue to flock to Madrid establishing this city as one of Spain’s popular Flamenco hotspots.
Flamenco consists of three artistic elements – the singing, the dancing and the guitar performance.
While there is a basic structure for the performers to follow, much of the Flamenco is an improvised form of expression centred on the singing.
Corral de la Moreria (tel: +91 365 8446) has a nightly event with foot-stomping performances that convey that passionate Spanish soul.
This well-known Flamenco establishment features some of the best Flamenco performers, as well as an impressive list of international dignitaries and famous patrons.
You never know which famous person you might spot at the table next to you; recent notaries include George Bush, Samuel Jackson, Hugh Grant and Demi Moore.
15- Tapas bars
Act like a local and nibble your way through the city’s tapas bars.
You’ll fill up on a huge variety of delicious titbits like albondigas (meatballs), bacalao (cod), chorizo (spicy sausage), jamon (ham) and tortilla espanola (potato and onion omelette).
The practice of eating tapas originated in the 18th century and is a way of life for the people of Madrid.
There is a large concentration of tapas bars in the old part of town around the Villa y Corte area.
Favourite local haunts can be found around La Latina, Lavapies, Chueca and Malasana.
How to travel around Madrid
One of the best ways to get around the city is to buy a two-day ticket for the hop-on-hop-off bus network.
These bright red open-top double-decker buses follow three routes (historical, modern and monument) that cover most of the city’s main sights.
Tickets can be purchased at hotels, travel agents or on the bus.