The exterior of old city walls of Ávila with 6 of its famous towers on show.

UNESCO World Heritage sites to visit in Spain – Part 1

In En-Route, Europe, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Spain, Trip-Types, Unesco, World Travel by Janis2 Comments

Our first taster of Spain’s top historical sites, we will return.

There’s something to be said about the reminiscing of your travels. And when I wrote my previous two posts on UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Portugal and France, I loved it. So, I thought I’m going to do one for Spain too. Firstly, I didn’t realise Spain had so many UNESCO sites and secondly, I never realised how many we had already visited.
The exterior courtyard of the Mosque–Cathedral of Cordoba.
The Patio de los Naranjos, Córdoba

Gary and I usually look out for UNESCO World Heritage Sites in any regions we travel to. It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t go and hunt down a slice of local history.

Some of these UNESCO sites can get a little overcrowded, and there are few that you may never even have heard of.

However, regardless of their popularity, they are all worth a visit. Keep an eye out for part 2 of our UNESCO sites to visit in Spain.

Quick Links

North, south, east or west, Spain has something for everyone.

A helpful guide

There are so many incredible places to discover in Spain and I love planning road trips. I often use the DK Eyewitness books, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our Spanish road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.

This town is so beautiful, and it’s full of one of my favourite styles of architecture, and that’s Moorish. Cáceres is in the Extremadura region of Spain, and the Old Town was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1986.
The view over Cáceres roof tops from a church tower.

The birds fly high around San Francisco Javier church, Cáceres

A couple walking a quiet lane in Cáceres lit by lanterns .
The quiet lanes of Cáceres

There’s an incredible amount of history here, take a delightful evening stroll amongst the ochre-coloured city walls and weave your way through charming tiny lanes.

Turn after turn you’re greeted with ancient towers, churches and courtyards.

Mmmm yes, we are now in the spiritual home paella, you’ve got it, Valencia. Valencia is a beachside city on the eastern coast of Spain, and in my opinion, can easily give Barcelona a run for its money. 
Inside the Silk Exchange of Valencia with its high vaulted roof and spiral columns.
Silk Exchange or Llotja de la Seda, Valencia

Just after you’ve visited the bustling Mercado pop across the road to the La Lonja de la Seda. Built between 1482 and 1533 in late gothic style, the building was once used a Silk Exchange and added to the UNESCO list in 1996. It’s beautiful inside, and with an entrance fee of just €2, it’s well worth a visit.

To discover the in-depth history behind Valencia’s silk trade, enjoy this 2-hour guided tour and skip the lines too.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say it, but the Mezquita in Córdoba is probably my favourite of all the places on this Spanish list. It really stopped me in my tracks when I walked in, you hear people say you must visit, but it is incredible. You feel like you are standing in a hall of mirrors within a forest of columns, you cannot believe how many of the red and cream arcs stretch out before you.
The decorative moorish arches of the Mosque–Cathedral of Cordoba.

The interior of the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

The historic centre of Córdoba was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1984. Although, it isn’t just the Mosque-Cathedral on the list, also included are other ancient sites around the historic city, AIcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos and the Roman bridge across the River GuadaIquivir.
The view from the Alcáza over the old Roman Bridge of Cordoba.

The view from the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, Córdoba

Enhance your incredible visit to the Mosque-Cathedral in Córdoba, by taking a 75 minutes guided tour and also skip the queues.
Just outside Oviedo on the hilltops above, is the beautiful church of Santa Maria del Naranco. This church was originally built as a royal palace for Ramiro I of Asturias in 848. It was then converted into a church towards the end of the 13th century, the building is sort of simple, but equally quite impressive, and you just want to climb its ancient steps and investigate further.
The entrance to Santa Maria del Naranco on Mount Naranco.

The entrance to Santa Maria del Naranco, Mount Naranco, Oviedo

Nearby and still heading up Mount Naranco is the church of San Miguel de Lillo and also part of Oviedo’s UNESCO site. If you keep climbing higher, you then get an incredible view across the Asturias countryside of northern Spain.

Why not?

Start creating your own Spanish adventure and discover some the enchanting UNESCO World Heritage sites for yourself.  Search for your flights in one easy place with and open up a world of options. Over 400 airlines are scanned for your favoured routes and chosen dates.

Or alternatively, like us jump on a Brittany Ferry and tour through Spain under your own steam.

Dotted in and around Barcelona are works by Antoni Gaudi, of which the city has become so synonymous with. The buildings are so unique, and there’s no doubt when you come across one, that they are immediately recognisable as Gaudi.
The detail in the nave of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Looking over the porters lodge at the Park Güel in Barcelona
View over Porters Lodge in Park Güell

Take a wander around sunny Barcelona to find Park Güell, Casa Milà-La Pedrera and Sagrada Família, just three of the seven properties on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

This has to be fun, jump on an eScooter and take a 2 ½ hour guided tour of Gaudi’s masterpieces.

Well, there is certainly no surprise that Alhambra Palace in Granada is on the UNESCO List. The palace in the beautiful region of Andalucía was added in 1984. Gary and I climbed to the top of the hill, where the Alhambra is located and arrived slightly tired in the Spanish heat, only to find out we had missed the chance of heading inside the palace. 
Looking over the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada.

A view from the gardens, Granada

Nevertheless, we were still able to tour the grounds and the castle, which were delightful, and you’d spend hours just visiting these on their own. So, don’t make the same mistake as us, grab your ticket in advance and jump the queues.
The bell tower at the top of the Alhambra palace with flags fluttering in the breeze.

Top of the Torre de la Vela, Granada

A view through a hedge to the Parador de Granada.

The framed Parador de Granada

Heading further north now, and we are in the historic city of Salamanca in the Castile and León region of Spain. Salamanca is a lovely city with some magnificent architecture, it has two cathedrals, one of Europe’s oldest universities and a Plaza Mayor you will immediately fall in love with.

The old cathedral on a cloudy day in Salamanca.
The old Cathedral of Salamanca
What I particularly liked about Salamanca, is that it still feels like it is slightly off of the tourist radar. Where in some cities in Spain English is spoken in a lot of places, Salamanca wasn’t like that. The old city was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988.
The view Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, illuminated at night, from a table of a bar.

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

In our opinion

We love embarking on road trips, so our preferred mode of transport is always jumping in a car. We find it’s the best way to discover a country.  

Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.

Slightly inland from Salamanca and still in the Castile and León region of Spain is the impressive walled city of Ávila. The city is encircled by an incredible 82 semi-circular towers and nine gates. It was built in the 11th century to protect the Spanish territories against the Moors.
The exterior of old city walls of Ávila with 6 of its famous towers on show.

The old city walls of Ávila

The Old Town of Ávila was inscribed onto the UNESCO List in 1985. There are plenty of historic buildings still within the walls, including the ancient Gothic cathedral and four Romanesque churches.

Why not jump on a guided tour and combine a visit to Salamanca and the walled city of Ávila and discover their history?

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  1. This is really a great content to read, the images are just amazing simply a treat to your eyes. Thanks for the share. Cheers!!

    1. Author

      Thanks very much for your kind comments, there are so many wonderful UNESCO sites in Spain that we have another post coming out on Friday with even more.

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