Spain is a stunning country with charming medieval towns, historical buildings, spectacular landscapes and a very diverse cultural heritage. There is no shortage of impressive landmarks in Spain that are well worth visiting. Most tourists either take a quick city trip to Barcelona, Madrid, or Valencia or they stay to indulge themselves in the sun on one of the pristine Spanish beaches along the Mediterranean coast while eating some of the most delicious Spanish food.
While you are planning your trip to Spain and are still not sure which part of the country to visit, this list with some of the most famous landmarks of Spain can assist you in deciding where to go. So when visiting Spain, landmarks like the Alhambra, the Giralda or the Mezquita in Andalusia, the Royal Palace in Madrid or the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona could be on your ‘to visit’ list.
20 Famous Spanish landmarks
With no less than 48 sites on the Unesco World Heritage list, there are plenty of famous buildings in Spain as well as natural sites to visit, so we compiled a list of Spain’s landmarks that we think are well worth a visit.
We have also limited this list of Spanish landmarks to the mainland only. Since there are so many famous monuments in Spain, we had to make a choice. Together with some expert travel bloggers we came to this list of famous Spanish landmarks you need to visit in Spain.
Now without further ado, here is a list highlighting Spain’s landmarks.
Alhambra in Granada
You would be hard-pressed to find a landmark in Spain that is more iconic and well-known than the incredible Alhambra complex in Granada. Located in the historic Andalucían city in the foothills of the imposing Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Alhambra is one of the most incredible fortresses and palace complexes anywhere in the world. Originally built as a small fortress on the remains of a Roman fortification in the 9th Century CE, the complex was continually added to over the centuries until it was completed to the glory that it is in the 1300s by the Nasrid Kings.
Though it is considered to be one of the top-visited landmarks in Spain and it is certainly one of the best things to see in Granada, the Alhambra is far more than just a beautiful palace. There are countless different facets of this incredible building which means that you’ll need a number of hours to be able to explore it all. Of course, the stunning Nasrid Palaces are the most iconic parts of the Alhambra, but make sure not to miss the Generalife or the Alcazaba inside, either. All in all, no trip to Andalucía is complete if you don’t take the time to visit the incredible Alhambra in Granada.
Recommended by Maggie from The World Was Here First
White villages in Andalucia
There are so many things to see in Andalucia that you would need a lifetime to explore everything. Located in the South of Spain, Andalucia is without a doubt the country’s richest area when it comes to monuments and diverse landscape. Among the different provinces of the region, the white villages of Andalucia stand out both through beauty and historical importance. Most of these villages were part of the defence system of the Nasrid Empire, back in the 15thcentury. By visiting them you will get to see remains of their fortifications, walls and castles.
The white villages of Andalucia make today very romantic visits. Imagine whitewashed houses decorated with colourful flowerpots, narrow cobbled streets, churches and towers in the highest parts of the village. Among these, there are small tapas bars where you can discover the local cuisine.
If you want to visit the off the beaten path villages, you should know that there is an official “pueblos blancos” route which starts in the Jaen province, passes through Malaga and ends in Cadiz. Some of the villages on this route include Olvera, Setenil de las Bodegas (which is unique because it is the only white village built inside a canyon and not on a cliff), Arcos de la Frontera, Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema.
Recommended by Joanna from The World in my Pocket
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Spain’s most famous landmark is quite possibly the Sagrada Familia basilica. It is certainly the most famous in Barcelona, normally receiving over 3 million visitors each year. The most impressive of Antoni Gaudi’s buildings, he died before it could be finished (his tomb is in the Sagrada Familia). City authorities are determined to complete the structure, and it’s scheduled for completion by 2026.
It’s hard to describe Gaudi’s audacious style – he creates sinuous spaces that are surreal, imaginative and audacious but also have incredible detail. The Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece combination of Gothic and Art Nouveau. There are currently eight towers but when it is complete there will be 18 and they will each represent a Roman Catholic figure. The highest will represent Jesus Christ.
It can take a couple of hours of queueing to get into the Sagrada Familia, so getting a ‘skip the line’ ticket is important (you get one included with a Barcelona City Pass). It’s also crowded and the best way to get to the iconic monument is to take the metro and get off at the Sagrada Familia station.
Recommended by Monique from TripAnthropologist
Guggenheim museum in Bilbao
Located in Bilbao, in the north of Spain, which is also the biggest city in the Basque Country, the Guggenheim Museum is one of the famous recognizable landmarks in Spain. It’s one of the seven Guggenheim Museums in the world. The building was designed by the Canadian architect Frank Gehry and was opened in 1997. The unique design immediately attracted the attention of contemporary art and architecture lovers. The Guggenheim Museum became one of the masterpieces of modern architecture in Europe. The bizarrely shaped building perfectly integrated into the urban context of the city. The location on the bank of the Nervion River creates a mirror effect – a perfect reflection of the building in the water. The best time for taking photos of the Museum is just at sunset or sunrise. The Museum is open for the public Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 7 pm.
The territory that is currently occupied by the museum used to be a port that was abandoned. At the time of construction, the neighbourhood turned into a dodgy area. The building of the Museum returned life into that part of the city, so-called the Guggenheim effect. Nowadays it’s a popular part of Bilbao with modern buildings, green spaces, open-air restaurants, and cafes. Bilbao became a popular tourist destination in Spain and one of the main stops on the Camino del Norte, a popular pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago.
Recommended by Alya & Campbell from Stingy Nomads
Plaza de España in Seville
The Plaza de España or the Spanish Steps is a Grand Plaza located in Seville city in Spain in Maria Luisa Park(Parque de María Luisa). It is one of the iconic landmarks of Spain, known for its grand architecture which is a blend of Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque Revival styles. The complex was constructed in 1928 for Ibero-American Exposition and was designed by Aníbal González. The area next to Maria Luisa was expanded to develop extensive gardens around the Plaza. Today, the Plaza houses many central government office buildings.
The most notable features of the Plaza de España is the half-circle with buildings around the edge, which are linked by bridges over the moats. These bridges symbolize the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. Check out the intricately decorated Vicente Traver fountain at the centre. As you walk along the Plaza, you can see the walls adorned with vibrant blue tiles or alcoves, all representing different provinces of Spain. You can see little bookshelves surrounding these alcoves, which contain detailed information about these provinces. These are the most photographed spots in the Plaza.
How to reach – You can take the metro Prado de San Sebastian (line 1) which will stop close to Plaza de España.
Recommended by Reshma from The Solo Globetrotter
City of Arts and Science in Valencia
The City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) in its short life (the complex was finished in 2005) has become not only one of the main highlights to visit in Valencia but probably the most important tourist destination in the country. This fascinating building complex was designed by star Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Just as most of his other creations, the City Arts and Sciences has become also quite controversial because of the high costs and that some of the buildings already need repairment.
Nevertheless, it’s such a unique place that will instantly make you feel in a sci-fi movie with its futurist landscape. The main highlights are the Science Museum (Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe), a most amazing interactive museum to teach you science and the Aquarium (Oceanogràfic), which is the largest of its kind exhibiting species from all marine ecosystems of our planet. There’s also an IMAX movie theatre and planetarium (Hemisfèric), where you can watch amazing 3D movies, the opera theatre (Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia) that puts on stage all kinds of cultural performances, and some other minor constructions.
Recommended by Gábor from Surfing the Planet
Aqueduct of Segovia
If you love ancient Roman ruins, walled cities and stunning castles, then 100% you will love visiting Segovia. It’s an easy day trip from the nation’s capital, Madrid. Located about 100km north of the capital, it’s a doable trip by car or train. If you have the time, then certainly stay here for a night, there are tons of walking trails to explore in the region. The UNESCO heritage site of Segovia gained its status in 1985 for several reasons, the biggest (and also the symbol of the city) is the iconic El Aqueducto, or the Aqueduct of Segovia. Some fascinating facts about the Aqueduct, it’s made up of around 160 arches, and even after all these hundreds of years, it’s in full working condition and still delivers fresh drinking water!
Depending on which legend you read about, some say that the aqueduct was built by Hercules others say it was built by the Devil. As wonderful as those stories are, in actual fact, it was built by the Romans at about 1st Century AD.
Other worthy things to see in Segovia are Alcazar of Segovia, Segovia Cathedral and the city walls, as well as the Jewish Quarter and the countless number of picturesque cobbled streets and squares. Outside the city walls, there are some great viewing points to photograph the city such as the Mirador del Último Pino. While you’re visiting Segovia, you definitely need to try the local sweet treat called a Ponche Segoviano.
Recommended by Becki from Meet Me In Departures
Historic city of Toledo
Toledo in the centre of Spain just 70 km or a 25-minute train journey from Madrid is one of the country’s most beautiful cities. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 in recognition of its extensive cultural heritage it is itself one of the most famous landmarks in Spain. Known as the ‘City of Three Cultures’ due to the influence of successive Islamic, Hebrew and Christian populations Toledo was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom between 542 and 725 AD.
Visiting Toledo today some 1,500 years later is to take a step back in time. Walking the narrow cobbled streets of the old town and Jewish districts among over 100 incredibly well-preserved monuments is an experience unrivalled anywhere else in Spain. The most prominent of Toledo’s many historical treasures is the Roman-built Alcazar fortress. Towering above the city and visible from miles around the Alcazar is an imposing first sight of the city. In the centre of the Old Town Toledo Cathedral dating back to 1226 is generally considered to be the greatest example of got hic architecture in Spain. These are but two of Toledo’s enviable history. Look out for the equally impressive Puerta Bisagra, one of two main gateways to the city dating back to the 6th century, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz built in 999 and the impressive San Martin Bridge.
Recommended by Paul from The Two That Do
The Walls of Ávila
The World Heritage city of Ávila is more of a traditional Spanish cultural city. With its formidable walls, called Murallas, surrounding the old town, Avila is enjoying the cosiness and safety. This 2.5 KM stretch of medieval wall atop the remains of Roman and Muslim battlements ranks among the world’s finest medieval defensive perimeters. The thickness of the walls is never less than three meters. The city was developed after Avila was conquered back from the Moors to stand as a bastion against the Caliphate to the south. It flourished and reached its peak in Spain for the next few hundred years.
The first thing about exploring Ávila, the town of stones and saints, is to take a walk around the old city walls, passing through its arches and gateways. The Old City Walls of this World Heritage city is a must to visit. You may take a City Walls tour. Thousands of pilgrims also flock to Ávila every year because of it being the birthplace of Saint Teresa. The Cathedral of Avila which is one of Avila’s oldest religious buildings, and represents the finest Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture in Europe. Among the museums, the Cathedral Museum and the Museum of Oriental Art are not to be missed.
Ávila has also been world-famous for centuries for its finest veal. Most of the veal dishes are served with Avila’s other speciality, beans or Barco de Avila. At around 110 KMs from Madrid, it is connected by train and by road.
Recommended by Nisha & Vasu from Lemonicks
Royal Palace in Madrid
Probably the top sight in Madrid, the Royal Palace is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic landmarks in Spain. Though the current royal family doesn’t live there, it is still the official royal residence and is used for state ceremonies. The building standing today is actually the largest functioning palace in Europe, spreading across 135,000 square meters (1,450,000 sq ft), containing more than 3000 rooms, and dating back to the 18th century.
There’s no doubt that the palace is beautiful on the outside, but don’t miss out on the opportunity to see some of its rooms that are open to the public like the Throne Room, the Crown Room, and the Gala Dining Room. From the paintings to the furniture to the architectural elements, they’re all extravagantly decorated and extremely impressive. You can also visit the Royal Armoury, which is considered one of the finest in the world. Things to know before visiting Madrid‘s Royal Palace: The number of daily visitors is limited, and the tickets are marked with a specific time slot, so be sure to purchase yours in advance or book a guided tour instead.
Recommended by Or from My Path in the World
Park Güell in Barcelona
Park Güell, located in the heart of Barcelona, is one of the largest areas of urban parkland in the city and is loved by locals and tourists alike. Designed by architect Antoni Gaudí, Park Güell is a collection of structures and gardens that were created not only as a place of congregation and relaxation but also as a living work of art. The park features manicured flower beds, tree-lined walkways, and open areas of recreation as well as having several mosaics, sculptures, paths, protocols, and buildings designed in a classically Gaudían style.
Park Güell was built between the years of 1900 and 1914 and is now a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage Site and major tourist attraction. While most of the park is free to visit, there are some sections, namely the central ‘Park Güell monumental zone’, that have an entrance fee. Paying the extra to explore these monuments, such as the Jardins d’Austria (Gardens of Austria), the Portic de la Bugadera (Wash House Portico) and the Placa de la Natura (Nature Square) is well worth it and visitors can easily spend half a day getting to the park (by bus or metro) and wandering around the grounds.
Recommended by Chrysoula from Travel Passionate
Cathedral and Giralda in Seville
The cathedral (Maria de la Sede) in Seville is a very special building: it is the biggest gothic church in the world and one of the biggest churches in Europe (after St. Peter in Rome and St. Paul in London). It also claims to be the home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus, but research does not confirm this.
But the best part of the cathedral is the Giralda. The clocktower used to be a minaret belonging to the mosque standing here. In the 15th century, it was decided to demolish the mosque and build the cathedral. Luckily for us, they decided to keep the minaret and turn it into a clocktower. In an earthquake in the 14th century, the top of the minaret collapsed. It was replaced with a clock and a cross. In the 16th century, when Seville became very rich because of the trade with their colonies, they build a new Renaissance top, including the 4-meter high statue of el Giraldillo representing faith.
A visit to the cathedral and Giralda is a must if you visit Seville. It is best to buy a ticket online because it can be very busy at the cathedral. By buying a ticket online you can skip the lines.
Recommended by Manouk from Groetjes uit Verweggistan
El Tajo Gorge in Ronda
El Tajo Gorge is located in Ronda, Spain; this famous sight is the reason why Ronda is one of the most popular day trips in Andalusia. The city of Ronda is located in a mountainous region and one of the few cities in the world to be naturally divided into two halves by the Guadalevín River which runs through the city. The river carves out the deep El Tajo gorge which separates the new town with the old town by three bridges, the most popular of which is Puente Nuevo, the new bridge. Whether you spend a day, 48 hours, or a week in Ronda, you need to hike down the El Tajo gorge to the heart of its valley to admire the Puente Nuevo bridge up above. If you’re not a serious hiker, it’s not necessary to walk the whole way; but, it is well worth it to walk a little bit down into the Gorge along with one of the trails. I was hesitant to do so because it was so hot during my visit, but it was such an exhilarating experience to enjoy this natural wonder in the heart of Ronda that I ended up hiking down much further than expected. Just make sure to bring a lot of water with you!
As the sun begins to set, sit on the terrace at one of the restaurants overlooking the gorge and drink a glass of vino or cava. The city is quiet because the day-trippers have left and the moment is pure magic.
Recommended by Jennifer from World On A Whim
Tibidabo Cathedral in Barcelona
Tibidabo, the most prominent hill overlooking Barcelona is home to the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor (The Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), a Roman Catholic that was built by the Spanish architect Enric Sagnier. At 520 meters tall, Tibidabo is also the highest mountain in the Collserola mountain range.
The nearby Tibidabo Amusement Park has a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and the 1928 Avió, a carousel, that gives visitors a feel of flying around the city. Opened in 1905, is one of the oldest functioning amusement parks in the world. It has been featured in several movies including Vicky Christina Barcelona. Tibidabo can be reached from Barcelona from Placa Catalunya via brown line L7. Take a train to Avenida Tibidabo and from there, walk about 200 meters along Avenida Tibidabo until you see a couple of buses. Take bus 196 that will take you to Tibidabo funicular.
Recommended by Daria from The Discovery Nut
Picos de Europa
The Picos de Europa (literally “peaks of Europe”) is a stunning mountain range that’s located 20 kilometres inland from the northern coast of Spain. The highest peak is Torre de Cerredo, with an altitude of 2650 metres. However, there are numerous other peaks in the Picos which also reach over 2600 metres.
The mountain range earned its fame by reportedly being the first sight of Europe by ships arriving from America. Although still relatively unknown to your average visitor to Spain, hikers, explorers and mountaineers will know the Picos well. It’s home to some of the most spectacular and diverse landscapes I’ve ever seen – from imposing limestone peaks, glacial lakes and dramatic gorges to lush valleys dotted with traditional farming villages. I’ve done a lot of hiking around the world and I still cite my 7-day trek through the Picos de Europa as one of the best.
Unless you’re a very competent hiker, I’d recommend doing lots of day hikes in the area rather than camping up in the mountains, where the weather can and does change quite dramatically and in a very short space of time! We used the villages of both Espinama and Sotres as our bases from which to hike. Of course, you don’t have to hike here, a road trip would also be a fantastic way of getting to know the area. The closest airports are Bilbao and Santander
Recommended by Kiara from Gallop Around The Globe
The Mezquita in Cordoba
The Mezquita-cathedral of Cordoba, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture. The cathedral showcases the history of Andalusia in just one building. It shows how the same location and building have been influenced by different eras in Spain.
This location first held a small Visigoth church. In 784, during the Moorish empire in Andalusia, Abd al-Rahman I ordered the construction of the Great Mosque at the same place. This mosque was expanded further by later Muslim rulers. In 1236, during the Reconquista, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile. This building was then converted to a Catholic church. The minaret of the mosque was converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. Being through so many alterations over the years, this place beards traces of all those transformations and is unique in itself
To reach the cathedral, take bus number 3 or 12 to Puerta del Puente. The cathedral is open from 9 to 14 and then 18 to 19:30. The tour of the bell tower is scheduled every half an hour. The entry is free from Monday to Saturday from 8:30 to 9:30, but it costs 11 euros otherwise (and 2 euros for the Bell Tower).
Recommended by Nisha from Nerdy Travels
Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe
While perhaps not as famous among foreign visitors as other landmarks in Madrid, Barcelona or Seville, the extraordinary royal monastery in Guadalupe, a small town in the remote Extremadura region, is well known among Spaniards and is visited by religious pilgrims as well as secular domestic tourists. In fact, for several centuries it was the most important monastery in all of Spain. Not only did Spain’s kings and queens come here to pray and worship, this is also where they signed the document authorizing Columbus to set sail on his first voyage.
Originally inhabited by the Order of St. Jerome, it was seized by the Spanish government in 1835 as part of the confiscation movement and is now managed jointly by the Extremaduran government and the Franciscan Order. It’s a working monastery and monks still live here. Nevertheless, tourists are welcome to visit and can even dine and sleep inside the monastery. There’s a wonderfully atmospheric restaurant where the tables spill out into the cloister courtyard, and some of the monks’ cells have been converted into a guesthouse.
Recommended by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Temple of Debod in Madrid
Can you imagine getting a bit lost in the middle of buzzing Madrid and finding an ancient Egyptian temple? It sounds quite odd, but the Spanish capital is hiding a treasure in plain sight. In Parque del Oeste you’ll find the Temple of Debod, built in the 2nd century, dismantled, and rebuilt in Madrid. It’s been opened to the public free of charge since 1972.
This monument was donated as a sign of gratitude to Spain for their help to the Egyptian government in saving the temples of Abu Simbel after the floods that followed the construction of the Aswan Dam.
The temple itself was conceived as a small single-roomed chapel dedicated to the god Amun, then extended in all directions to create a small temple for the goddess Isis. During Roman times, the temple saw further expansions, including two pylons gateways and a processional way from the quay, and scenes depicting the Emperor added to the main façade. It’s the perfect spot to relax and take in a panoramic view of the city. For the most breathtaking vistas, visit during sunset. The temple itself looks magnificent, and the views of the Almudena Cathedral and the Royal Palace are amazing.
Recommended by Coni from Experiencing The Globe
Alcazaba in Almería
The Alcazaba in Almeria’s most recent claim to fame is featuring in Game of Thrones, but its history stretches back much further than that. The fortress was built on the hills near Almeria city in the 10th century and was made of several enclosures that housed space for citizens to shelter if there was an attack, a mosque, baths, and housing for governors, soldiers, and servants.
You can now visit the remains of these areas and enjoy amazing views over the city, the surrounding mountains, and out to sea. Just one of the many awesome things to do in Almeria The area around Almeria has been used for filming movies and TV shows for a long time, and the Alcazaba is no different. James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Wonder Woman are just a few of the more well-known ones. In contrast to some of the other historic sites of this age in Andalucia, the Alcazaba is very cost-effective to visit. It’s free for European citizens and only €1.50 for everyone else, although they never seem to actually charge!
Recommended by Sonja from Migrating Miss
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is easily one of the most historically and religiously significant buildings anywhere in Spain. Why? Well, it’s the reputed burial site of James the Great, the apostle to Jesus Christ. Every year, thousands upon thousands of people pay homage to the building by completing the arduous 500 miles long ‘El Camino de Santiago‘. It is a pilgrimage route dating back hundreds of years and the endpoint is this wondrous cathedral. Construction began in 1075, making the existing cathedral almost 1000 years old! And it is still in incredible condition, having been well-maintained and preserved ever since. If you wish to visit, then don’t worry you don’t have to spend a month walking there!
Instead, there is a large airport nearby and tonnes of amazing hotels located throughout the city. Plus, there’s lots more to see and do here, making it a wonderful city for a weekend getaway. I recommend visiting the cathedral, not just in the day, but also at night. At this time it’s much less crowded and the plaza in front of it is well lit. If you’re lucky enough you’ll also discover singers and musicians performing around it late into the night.
Recommended by Bradley from Dream Big Travel Far
Planning a trip to Spain? Use these related posts to further prepare your visit in Spain:
- The most beautiful beaches in Spain you need to visit: A list of beaches in Spain, mainland and on the islands that are worth visiting because of their location or because of the beach itself.
- Best souvenirs to buy in Spain: Spain is a great place to buy some beautiful souvenirs like colourful pottery, leather products, olive oil and wine.
- Top things to do in Spain: Visit famous monuments in Spain and check which top activities in Spain can be done in the area.
- Best Spanish food to try in Spain: If you are wondering what to eat in Spain? Here is a list with some of the best dishes to try in Spain.
- Best Spanish drinks: Pair a good plate of Spanish food with a nice traditional Spanish drink.
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