Spanish World Heritage Cities – the privilege of history
The Segovia aqueduct
Avila city walls
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Salamanca's Plaza Mayor square
View of the city of Ibiza and its historic quarter
Spain has a lot to offer, and this is something officially endorsed by UNESCO: Spain is the country with the third greatest number of World Heritage sites. In order to receive this privileged designation, a site must have been part of a unique artistic achievement, have influenced a specific period in history or constitute an exceptional testimony to a culture no longer in existence. These are just some of the requisites. These universally important sites belong to all of us, you included. Come and discover some of our World Heritage Cities.
Spain's cultural heritage is priceless for its tradition, history, wealth and diversity. This is backed up by UNESCO's recognition and by the fact that Spain is one of the countries with the highest number of World Heritage Sites. The approval of this international body is a special honour as it certifies the role of these sites as points of reference and as supreme examples of the world's cultural diversity. However, it also requires a deep commitment: to guarantee their protection and conservation for the enjoyment of future generations.
If Spain appeals to you as a cultural destination, then exploring its World Heritage Cities is the best option. You can experience their cultural wealth close up, given that many historic buildings have been restored and are now used for a range of different functions: exhibition centres and craft sales centres, art galleries, markets, and first-rate accommodations such as the luxury Parador hotels. You'll find that they are also dynamic cities, full of life. The majority of them are home to universities, and their student populations imbue them with a special atmosphere and vitality.
These places are jewels of immense cultural value for a variety of reasons. Cities like Cordoba, Toledo and Salamanca reflect Spain's urban history, displaying the transformations and influences they have undergone over the ages. An important element is the way the urban landscape is integrated into its natural surroundings: rivers, mountains and gorges are all part of the personality of cities such as Segovia, Cuenca and Toledo. Not forgetting, of course, the fact that these cities also possess some of the world's most important monuments: the Great Mosque in Cordoba, City Walls of Avila and the Cathedral in Santiago are just three examples.
Spain's World Heritage Cities come together to offer the chance to discover an outstanding, diverse and extremely valuable universal heritage. Each one of these cities stands out for one particular element or characteristic, but they all have much, much more to offer. Whichever you choose to visit, you'll be delighted at the result:
Alcalá de Henares
This is the birthplace of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. His house is an excellent example of a typical 16th-century Castilian home. Here you can also see the Europe's oldest open-air theatre. The university and the historic centre received UNESCO designation.
This is a good example of a medieval city. Its city wall is the best conserved in Europe, and the old town and the churches to be found outside the walls are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Fortresses, Renaissance palaces and medieval town squares… All in all, an endless catalogue of different monuments. Its old town has the World Heritage designation. A night time visit is also highly recommended on account of the beautiful illumination.
Its historic centre has the World Heritage designation. This city, which was a major centre of world power and culture under Muslim rule, is home to one of the Caliphate's most spectacular works of architecture: the Great Mosque.
This city appears to be suspended in mid air. Its unusual 'casas colgadas' (hanging houses) are an example of man's capacity to transform his surroundings in perfect integration with nature. Its historic fortified centre has the UNESCO distinction.
This island is a treasure that has been coveted by all the peoples of the Mediterranean Sea over the ages. Its valuable archaeological treasures are among the highlights of this wonderful heritage site. UNESCO makes special mention of the island for its biodiversity and culture.
This city inherited all the splendour of the ancient Roman Empire. Its emblematic buildings, such as the Roman theatre and the Amphitheatre, make its archaeological site, which has the UNESCO World Heritage designation, one of the best conserved in Spain.
Its University was founded in 1254 and is one of the world's oldest. Since then it has been at the centre of the life of this city, along with another of its monumental jewels: the Plaza Mayor square. Its historic centre is catalogued on the UNESCO list.
San Cristóbal de la Laguna
The origins of Latin American urban architecture are to be found in this city in the Canary Islands. The frugal beauty of its buildings speak of its past as a link between cultures.
Santiago de Compostela
This is the final destination for thousands of pilgrims who take the Way of Saint James every year. It is said that the remains of the apostle St. James are inside the cathedral, a splendid example of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical architecture. Its old town has the World Heritage designation.
This old city and its Roman aqueduct have also received the prestigious UNESCO designation. The aqueduct, especially, is a marvel of engineering. It is built using only blocks of stone, without mortar, held together simply by a perfect, ingenious balance of forces.
The city, known as Tarraco in the ancient Roman Empire, now has an impressive archaeological site with the UNESCO World Heritage designation. Its Circus and Amphitheatre are an example of the importance of its monuments.
Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together in harmony here for centuries, leaving their indelible mark on Toledo's streets, monuments and buildings. Its historic centre has the UNESCO distinction.