Castles are a vital part of Spain's historic and artistic heritage. A journey through Castile-Leon and Madrid will give you the chance to see some of the most important and representative examples of Spanish defensive architecture, including medieval fortresses that are now hotels, museums, cultural centres, etc.

If you like tales of castles and knights, Spain is a destination you should get to know. Spanish fortresses have some unique characteristics that make them very different from the ones in the rest of Europe. In general, you will find functional buildings, with a solid, austere look and crenellated walls and towers, usually incorporating Hispanic-Moorish features. If you tour the interior of Spain, through the Autonomous Regions of Castile-Leon and Madrid, you will be amazed at the variety of styles and the number of fortifications that still exist.

Symbol of Castile-Leon

There are nearly 300 castles distributed throughout Castile-Leon, located in urban areas or in the midst of the countryside. Ancient and imposing, they are a common sight in the landscapes of any of this region's nine provinces: Ávila, Burgos, Leon, Palencia, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valladolid and Zamora. A large part of them are open access, while others have guided and dramatised tours. At some, it is necessary to make an appointment, while at others, only the outside can be visited. The Alcázar of Segovia, Gormaz Castle, the Border Fortifications Route in Salamanca, the Ávila city walls… The list of monuments is lengthy, so the best idea is to check with the information centres and tourist offices in each area beforehand so you can make sure not to miss anything.

These places will take you back to another era. However, some of them are still full of life. Peñafiel Castle, for example, is home to Valladolid's Wine Museum, while Simancas Castle, also in Valladolid, houses one of the most important historic archives in Europe. Other strongholds, such as the ones in Cuéllar and Coca, in Segovia, accommodate educational centres, or as in the case of the Templar fortress (Leon) and the one in Puebla de Sanabria (Zamora), act as venues for cultural activities. You will even find places where you can sleep: the Caracol Tower (Zamora) and the Ciudad Rodrigo Castle (Salamanca) are Parador Hotels; and Castilnovo Castle (Segovia) and Magalia Castle (Ávila) also offer lodging.

Watchtowers and Mudejar art in Madrid

In Madrid, you will discover around twenty old towers and fortresses that still exist today, some better preserved than others. Manzanares El Real Castle and the one in Buitrago de Lozoya are two of the region's most emblematic buildings. The former is one of the most beautiful examples of the palace style of architecture, with a mix of Mudejar, Gothic and Renaissance elements. The latter, next to the village's walls, is also a fine example of Mudejar architecture.

Deserving special mention are the 10th-century Moorish watchtowers located at strategic points in the Sierra Norte Mountains: Arrebatacapas, El Berrueco, El Vellón and Venturada. They have special scenic and historic value, as they were used to communicate with Cordoba and Granada through light and smoke signals. Furthermore, in Madrid you will find routes that will enable you to admire other defensive fortifications of interest, such as the castle in Batres, the one in San Martín de Valdeiglesias, the one in Chinchón and the one in Cadalso de los Vidrios.

Spain is a land of castles, where you can enjoy art and history in the midst of towers and battlements. If you would like to know more about this subject, we invite you to read the following reports: Travel back to the Middle Ages with the castles of La Mancha Castles in Catalonia: buildings that come to life More information: Castile-Leon Tourism Madrid Tourism: Routes

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