As of 2021, there are 43 UNESCO sites in Spain, four of which are located in the Canary Islands, one in Ibiza and one in Mallorca (we've only included mainland sites). Spain joined the 8th Session in 1984 and inscribed five sites; Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, Córdoba, The Alhambra and the Generalife, Granada, Burgos Cathedral, Monastery and Site of the Escorial, Madrid and Park Güell, Palau Güell and Casa Milà, Barcelona.
Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain(cultural, 1985) Cantabria, Asturias, Basque Country [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias (cultural, 1985) Oviedo [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
⭐️ Historic Centre of Córdoba (cultural, 1984) Córdoba [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
The historic centre of Córdoba is the largest UNESCO-protected city centre in Europe, covering the entire old town and many of its monuments including the Cathedral of Córdoba, the Roman bridge, Calahorra Tower, the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, San Basilio, the Roman walls, Caliphal Baths, Episcopal Palace of Córdoba and the San Sebastián Hospital, and ranging from Roman, Arabic and Christian architectural styles.
⭐️ Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct(cultural, 1985) Segovia [Wikipedia] [UNESCO
Often overshadowed by France's Pont du Gard, Segovia's aqueduct is the world's best-preserved Roman aqueducts and a defining symbol of the city and its Roman heritage. At its tallest point, the structure reaches a height of 28.5m (93ft) and the city section contains 167 arches, totalling a length of 794m (2604ft), making it nearly three times as long as the Pont du Gard!
⭐️ Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) (cultural, 1985) Santiago de Compostela [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Perhaps best known for being the end destination of the epic Way of St James pilgrim routes, Santiago de Compostela is dominated by its stunning Romanesque cathedral in its centre.
Old Town of Ávila with its Extra-Muros Churches (cultural, 1985) Ávila [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Toledo's history in a nutshell goes something like this: from a thriving Roman city, Toledo was invaded by the Goths, an empire of early Germanic people, before becoming a fortress of the Emirate of Cordoba, an outpost of the Christian kingdoms fighting the Moors and, in the 16th century, the temporary seat of supreme power under Charles V. Its frequent change of rule meant there were three major religions existing simultaneously; Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Historic Walled Town of Cuenca (cultural, 1996) Cuenca [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Caliphate City of Medina Azahara(cultural, 2018) Andalusia [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
⭐️ Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín (cultural, 1984) Granada [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Sitting on two adjacent hills, above the modern town of Granada, the Alhambra and Albayzin form the medieval part of the town. On the northern hill sits the historic neighbourhood of Albayzín, much visited by tourists because of its ancient architecture and quaint narrow streets. On the southern hill, Alhambra, the ancient fortress and residence sitting atop a leafy plateau, and sitting roughly between the two hills, the Generalife gardens.
This UNESCO listing consists of seven sites, all located within the Province of Barcelona including Parque Güell (1900-1914), Palacio Güell (1886-1888), Casa Mila (1906-1912), Casa Vicens (1883-1885), the Nativity Façade and Crypt of the Sagrada Familia (1882-present), Casa Batlló (built 1877, redesigned by Gaudí in 1904) and the Crypt at the Colònia Güell (1898-1914, unfinished).
UNESCO commented that the collection of structures highlight "Gaudí’s exceptional creative contribution to the development of architecture and building technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries".
The Sagrada Familia started construction in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano but a year into construction, he resigned. Gaudí resumed responsibility for the design which he proceeded to change entirely. At the time of Gaudí's death in 1926, progress was said to be around 15-25% complete but many set backs would plague the building project including the Spanish Civil War of 1936, the loss of the original plans in a fire and the Second World War. As of 2021, progress sits somewhere between 75-85% complete with an estimated completion date of between 2026 and 2032. Upon completion it will overtake Ulm Cathedral as the tallest cathedral in the world.
Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon (cultural, 1986) Provinces of Teruel and Zaragoza [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
⭐️ Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville (cultural, 1987) Seville [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
The historic and ornately decorated capital of Andalucia in southern Spain, Seville never fails to intrigue and seduce its visitors. Its vast cathedral lords over the city, holding the title of largest gothic cathedral in the world. The Archivo de Indias, housed in the ancient merchants' exchange, holds some of the most valuable artefacts and documents from the years of the Spanish Empire, which at its peak, held just over 10% of the world's land area. And the jewel in Seville's crown, the Royal Alcázar, a Mudéjar masterpiece adorned with fountains, pools, water channels, it is truly an idyllic escape. It was most recently featured in TV hit series Game of Thrones.
Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza (cultural, 2003) Province of Jaén [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida (cultural, 1993) Mérida [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe (cultural, 1993) Extremadura [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Route of Santiago de Compostela (cultural, 1993) Aragon, Castile and León, Galicia, Navarre, and La Rioja [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Doñana National Park (natural, 1994) Provinces of Huelva and Seville [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
⭐️ Pirineos – Mont Perdido (natural, 1997) Aragon (shared with France) [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Straddling the Franco-Spanish border, in the Pyrénées mountain chain, Mont Perdido UNESCO World Heritage Site contains many quintessential geological landforms including two of Europe's largest canyons. The summit, at 3,352m, is situated on the Spanish side of the border.
La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia (cultural, 1996) Valencia [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
The sheer, ochre faces of these rock formations were subject to two centuries of mining by the Romans who exploited the area for its rich gold deposits. After the Romans withdrew, the devastated landscape was abandoned and never mined again. The effects of the mining led to a peak in air pollution, levels of which weren't experienced again until the Industrial Revolution some 1,700 years later. The area is now used primarily for agriculture and is a tourist attraction.
Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona (cultural, 1997) Barcelona [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries (cultural, 1997) San Millán de la Cogolla [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde (cultural, 1998) Castile and León (shared with Portugal) [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula (cultural, 1998) Andalusia, Aragon, Castile-La Mancha, Catalonia, Murcia, and Valencia [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares (cultural, 1998) Madrid [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco (cultural, 2000) Tarragona [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Vizcaya Bridge isn't just any old bridge, it is a transporter bridge, designed to move vehicles and pedestrians between the towns of Portugalete and Las Arenas, crossing the Nervion River. It is the oldest bridge of its kind in the world, designed by Alberto Palacio, a friend of Gustave Eiffel and completed in 1893, it is still in regular use, albeit using modern systems. Its gondola can accommodate six cars and several dozen pedestrians, transporting them 160m across the river in just one and a half minutes.
Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe (natural, 2017) Castile and León, Navarre, Castile-La Mancha, and Community of Madrid (shared with 11 other countries in Europe) [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Paseo del Prado and Buen Retiro, a landscape of Arts and Sciences (cultural, 2020) Madrid [Wikipedia] [UNESCO]
Ben deals with all things design, working on the visual design of our annual guides, Destinations magazine, information leaflets, social media and email campaigns, and much more across the Alan Rogers, Rallies and Worldwide brands. He also produces written content for our blogs alongside our other contributors.
When you are planning your next road trip, there is one place that is the perfect contender, and that's Spain. Spain is a country that has it all. Beautiful sunshine and hot weather, culture, architecture and a fascinating history too. Even if you are looking for a little winter sun to drive away those winter blues, Spain is the place to go.