Prado Museum, Madrid

Art and culture in Spain


Did you know that Spain is the country with the fourth largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world? Spain has a uniquely spectacular wealth of monuments, the result of long centuries of history and a mix of cultures. This is the country of artists of universal renown such as Velázquez, Goya, Gaudí, Picasso, and Dalí, and here art and culture are celebrated intensely in so many different ways. Want to find out more?

Monuments and historical heritage

In Spain there are more than 15,600 monuments, archaeological sites, gardens, and historical complexes that have been declared Properties of Cultural Interest (BIC). It’s a rich, diverse heritage that’s extraordinarily valuable, and remains from the different civilisations, cultures, and historical eras that evolved on Spanish territory have been preserved: from Iberians and Celts to Romans and Arabs as well as Phoenicians, Greeks, and Visigoths who all left their mark. Within this mix unique artistic styles are also to be found, such as Asturian pre-Romanesque, Mudejar architecture and Andalusí art. So it’s no surprise that Spain is the country with the fourth largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world. From the cave paintings at the Altmira Cave and the findings at Atapuerca to the Segovia Aqueduct, the Alhambra Palace in Granada, and the Great Mosque of Córdoba, to the cathedrals of Seville and Burgos, and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. These are just a few examples of Spain’s multitude of cultural treasures that just have to be seen and experienced. The 15 Spanish World Heritage cities are definitely worth a special mention, as visiting them will never disappoint.

Panoramic view of the Alhambra, Granada

Museums and art galleries

Spain's museums house some of the most important collections in the world, and are home to some exceptional works and true masterpieces. And if you want to get to know artists such as Velázquez, Goya, Dalí, Miró or Picasso, they’re not to be missed. In Madrid the ‘Art Walk’ comprising the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía National Museum, takes you on a journey through the history of art up to the present day. Contemporary art takes centre stage at places like Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum , the MACBA in Barcelona, the IVAM in Valencia and Málaga’s Centro Pompidou. There are also numerous other art galleries and alternative cultural spaces, particularly in Madrid and Barcelona. If you want to immerse yourself in the world of Pablo Picasso, the Picasso museums of Málaga and Barcelona are simply unmissable. These are just a few examples taken from a long list. Spain has more than 1,500 extremely diverse museums and collections, many of which stand out as benchmarks in their category, and they attract millions of visitors each year.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Contemporary architecture

And Spain’s most avant-garde monuments never fail to surprise. These are buildings, constructions, and architectural spaces designed by prestigious architects who combine aesthetics with functionality. There are museums and cultural centres such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Frank Gehry), the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia (Santiago Calatrava), the MUSAC in León (Tuñón & Mansilla), the Centro Botín (Renzo Piano), the Centro Niemeyer (Óscar Niemeyer), and the extensions to the Prado Museum (Rafael Moneo) or the Reina Sofía Museum (Jean Nouvel), to name a but a few. Also noteworthy are auditoriums and venues such as the Palau de Sant Jordi (Arata Isozaki) or the Kursaal (Rafael Moneo); wineries such as the Marqués de Riscal complex (Frank Gehry) or Bodegas Ysios (Santiago Calatrava); and public spaces such as the Metropol Parasol (locally known as the "Mushrooms" of Seville), and Terminal 4 at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez airport. The list of places waiting to be discovered is a long one, but to give you a few ideas:- Designer wineries- Bilbao Art District- Examples of contemporary architecture in Green Spain- Discover the most modern face of inland Spain- Four art centres with cutting-edge architecture in Andalusia- A tour of the most futuristic buildings on Spain’s Mediterranean coast 

Centro Botín, Santander

Cultural routes

Of all the many cultural routes in Spain, there is one that really stands out, and that has its own name: the Way of St James. The oldest pilgrim route in Europe, year after year it continues to attract thousands of travellers from all over the world, and has been awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO. Another great cultural route is the Vía de la Plata (the Silver Route) which runs from north to south, following the old Roman road of the same name. And then there are the Legado Andalusí routes, which reveal the impressive legacy of al-Andalus. Together with those mentioned, there are many other routes that offer great opportunities to discover Spain’s historical and cultural riches. A very varied list that also includes some twenty Council of Europe cultural routes. Here you can discover some of Spain’s most popular tourist routes.

Festivals, celebrations, and traditions

In a country like Spain, the calendar of events is another example of cultural wealth. Throughout the year there are a whole host of important music, film, theatre, literature, dance and performing arts festivals of all kinds and genres. In the major cities you’ll also find big exhibitions, musical shows, and all sorts of special cultural events. Without forgetting the multitude of festivals, fairs, and popular celebrations that take place all over the country. Some have become internationally famous, as is the case of Las Fallas and Holy Week, and some have even been awarded Intangible World Heritage status by UNESCO.

Holy Week in Seville

Artists and famous names

Throughout history many Spaniards have left their distinctive mark in different artistic and cultural fields (Murillo, Zurbarán, Miró, Sorolla, Maruja Mallo, Cervantes, Lorca, Falla, Buñuel, Balenciaga, Ramón y Cajal, and many more). And today there are many who are still continuing to do so. Antonio López, Miquel Barceló, Paco de Lucía, Camarón de la Isla, Montserrat Caballé, Pedro Almodóvar, Blanca Li, Manuel Pertegaz, Severo Ochoa, Margarita Salas and Ana María Matute are just a few names on the long list of women and men who are dedicated to literature, painting, music, film, fashion, dance, science, and all kinds of art whose prestige and renown transcend frontiers.

Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation
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