Spain, also called the Kingdom of Spain, is located in the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. Spain’s territory includes two islands: the Balearic and the Canary. The Balearic Islands are located in the Mediterranean Sea while the Canary Islands are off the coast of Africa.
Spain is the only European country to share borders with Africa since it is touching the city of Morocco. The two enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, border Spain on the African side. There are also several small islands in the Alboran Sea that are within Spanish territory.
By population, Spain is the sixth largest nation in Europe. With significant cities including Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, and Seville, Spain is known for its beautiful scenery, unique architecture, and interesting events that take place.
Tourist attractions fill Spain to the brim with individuals intrigued by flamenco dance steps, rhythmic guitar playing, and lavish beaches. The sun dances off the rooftops of historic landmarks and museums, leaving the sightseer inspired and captivated by the beauty.
Every aspect of Spain tells a story - from its rich history to the country’s famed turmoils - every inch has a narrative to share. Many famous places in Spain manage to capture the bold nations history and modernness to blend it beautifully for the world to see.
Whether you are a traveler looking for a new place to explore in this Spanish country or are a native wanting to learn about your roots, Spain is the supreme place to do it. There is never a dull moment when there are so many grand sights to see. Read on to discover some of the most famous places in Spain.
Famous Places in Spain
Alhambra is a breathtaking complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. Initially built as a military fortress in the 9th century by the Nasrites, the complex was soon turned into a palace for the Nasrid Dynasty.
The spectacular Islamic architecture is what makes Alhambra such a popular tourist attraction today. The entire complex includes a mosque, numerous buildings and towers, walls, and gardens. The fortress was built for necessity but is a favorite today for the intricate designs.
Inside the complex, you will find detailed carvings, grand ceilings made of intricate tile designs, and elegant arches complimenting complicated artwork. There are also calming courtyards built between buildings, offering up a serene and lovely view.
The adjacent building, created for Emperor Charles V, provides a short cessation from the spectacular, detailed architecture seen near. The Generalife gardens, adjoining the complex, is a perfect example of peace and serenity.
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
American architect Frank Gehry created the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to become a beautiful work of art, not just an average building. In doing so, he provided a whole new tourist attraction for the city.
Guggenheim Museum looks like its part functional building, part flighted creature. The chic arcs and myriad of shapes make the building look like it could transform and take flight at any moment. The building itself is a tourist attraction, outside of the contents of the museum.
Frank Gehry used large blocks of limestone and sheets of titanium to create this captivating piece of architectural artwork. He turned the traditional idea of architecture on its head, leaving modern construction in the dust.
The building became so aesthetically pleasing and appealing to the eye that it created “the Bilbao Effect.” People came from near and far to the city, increasing tourist profits and benefiting the economy.
Architourism is a word to describe those who travel to destinations to see incredible landmarks - and that’s what Frank Gehry accomplished for Bilbao.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is composed of Seville Cathedral, the Giralda Tower, and the Alcazar. UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. This historic site has a colorful history to tell and attracts millions of tourists every year.
The Giralda tower is a minaret or a tall, slender tower, and it a “masterpiece of Almohad art” according to UNESCO. It is the only standing architectural piece left from The Great Mosque, which was destroyed to create the current buildings.
The Seville Cathedral has a 37-meter altar composed of carved statues covered almost entirely in gold and is home to the monumental tomb of Christopher Columbus. Also called the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, Seville Cathedral is the third largest church in the world and the largest gothic church standing today.
Construction of Alcazar began with the Moors in 712 and eventually continued in the 1300s by King Pedros Christian conquest of the area. The spacious rooms contain detailed designs and garden centers it. The serene gardens include lemon and orange trees, which waft throughout the massive building.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site contains many beautiful buildings to behold and is undoubtedly one of the most famous places in Spain in history.
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral Built to honor St. James, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is the perfect example of Early Romanesque architecture. Built between 1060 and 1211, the cathedral experienced a Baroque transformation to its outer walls during the 16th or 17th centuries.
The whole interior of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is still in the Early Romanesque style it was initially built. When you step inside, you will see the Portico de la Gloria, which is part of the old west front.
The triple doorway seen on the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is one of the most impressive standing doors in modern history. It is an excellent rendition of Romanesque architecture and is admired by many for its sculptural beauty.
The elaborate decor in the central part of the cathedral is built over the Apostle’s tomb. The alabaster, silver and Jasper wooden Apostle statue covered in gems and precious metals. Narrow staircases line either side of the figure, so those who wish to approach can do so quickly.
Toledo’s Old City
Architectural admirers will revel in Toledo’s Old City, where Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture come together to form a unique sight. El Greco, a painter, sculptor, and architect, painted the city in his landscape piece, The View of Toledo.
The city sits high on a hill and is surrounded by the Tagus River on three out of four sides. Climbing the granite hill to enter the town gives an interesting, yet stunning perspective of the historical buildings. You can easily see the city’s Moorish influence with its narrow, winding streets and tapering, irregular alleyways. The Christian period of the town sees through the numerous churches, hospices, and religious convents.
The church of San Tome, which is another landmark in itself, holds one of El Greco’s famed masterpieces. Nearby, the Gothic Cathedral is ornately decorated and is a piece of art by itself. UNESCO has listed Toledo’s Old City as a part of Spain’s cultural heritage. While walking through the streets, you can see the city’s history progression right before your eyes. Learning about the architecture and notable buildings makes the city similar to an outdoor museum.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid
Madrid, Spain’s lively and welcoming capital city, is home to the Plaza Mayor. Built in the 16th century under Philip II’s rule, by architect Juan de Herrera, Plaza Mayor has been a staple in Spanish ceremonies from its inception.
Plaza Mayor has been the site of many events in its history, from burning of heretics to the declaration of a new king and announcements of saints. The building has also been home to numerous public entertainment events, including bullfights and tournaments.
As a major tourist attraction, Plaza Mayor in Madrid is pedestrian-only, with no vehicles allowed in the area. The lower section of the building fills with cafes, restaurants, and meeting-places for Spanish natives and tourists alike to conjure.
The Rambla, Barcelona
If you are looking for a quaint area to take peaceful walks in the evening, The Rambla in Barcelona is the place for you. With a scenic tree-lined walkway, you can meander through the cities center to take in all the historic architecture.
La Rambla’s lively atmosphere is perfect for a relaxing evening or an exciting tourist attraction. The main pathway is lined with restaurants and cafes with indoor and outdoor seating options available, and there are bird and flower markets to browse along the way.
Year round, entertainment lines the walkways in La Rambla, delighting every person who passes through. Live music comes from street musicians, various entertainers enchant passersby, and living statues surprise bystanders.
Costa del Sol
A beautiful stretch of soft, white sand and gentle, blue water, Costa del Sol Beaches are a favorite destination spot for those seeking warmth, sun, and sand. Holding the record as the sunniest place in Europe, Costa del Sol welcomes locals and tourists with open arms.
The rising popularity of Costa del Sol caused environmental issues with the beaches. Luckily, the government took control and is consistently working to control the population on the beaches and restore them to their more natural, beautiful state.
If sun and sand aren’t your things, Costa del Sol is home to many other fun attractions. There is a marina in Puerto Buenas for boaters and yachtsman alike, and Golf Valley that contains over 50 courses for avid golfers.
Very close to the white sandy beaches the remains of Moorish Castillo can be found. In the town of Marbella, you will come across historical white houses and well-preserved buildings. The beautiful scenery on and around the beaches of Costa del Sol make them one of the most famous places in Spain.
The Parque Nacional de Teide
As one of Europe’s top natural wonders, the Parque Nacional de Teide is an ancient, but still active, volcano in Tenerife. The Parque Nacional de Teide consists of two parts - the Pico de Teide and the Caldera de las Canadas, the latter being a gigantic volcanic crater. If you are the adventurous type and are interested in exploring the Parque Nacional de Teide,
you can do so in several ways. Hiking or driving across the caldera, or crater floor, lands you right in the middle of colorful rock formations deep under the Earth’s surface.
There is also the option to climb up the side of El Teide, but it is easier to take a cable car up the steep wall. When the weather is beautiful and the sky is clear, there is a possibility that you will even be able to see North Africa from the volcano's peak.
In 2007, UNESCO mentioned El Teide’s beauty and importance in geological processes regarding evolution and oceanic islands. El Teide is not only an impressive sight but also a historical one. This makes it one of the most famous places in Spain.
Spain is a sought-after tourist destination for all of the right reasons. The incredible architecture, breathtaking sunsets, and famous places in Spain make it the perfect place to visit when the desire to experience new things overcomes you. While it isn’t mandated, researching Spain’s popular destinations is a great idea for new travelers to the area. There is so much more to the European country than beautiful views and sunsets. Yes - these are incredibly appealing, but don’t miss out on the vibrant history that Spain has to offer!
Every country has a story to tell, and The Kingdom of Spain is no different. Many parts of the nation have are in their original states, which makes a great historical lesson for even the most well-versed history buff. While you can begin your travels without knowing anything about the famous places in Spain, it is highly recommended that you do your due diligence, so you don’t miss a thing. Not many people get to travel to Spain very often, so take advantage and see all you can!