Prado Museum, Madrid

Art and culture in Spain


Did you know that Spain is the country with the fifth 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 17,000 monuments, archaeological sites, gardens, and historical complexes that have been declared Properties of Cultural Interest (BIC). It has extraordinary and incredibly valuable heritage that stands out for its richness and diversity, and which preserves numerous representative examples of the different civilisations, cultures and historical periods that unfolded on Spanish soil: From the Iberians and Celts to the Romans and Arabs, as well as the Phoenicians, Greeks, Visigoths, and more. We can also find unique art styles, such as Asturian Pre-Romanesque, Mudéjar architecture and Al-Andalus 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 of the Altamira Cave and the discoveries of Atapuerca to the Aqueduct of Segovia, the Alhambra of Granada and the Mosque of Cordoba, not to mention the cathedrals of Seville, the Burgos and the Sagrada Familia of Barcelona, ​​to name just a few examples – Spain is an essential cultural trip. The 15 World Heritage Cities of Spain also deserve a special mention; you can't go wrong with a visit to these cultural gems.

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. It's also a can't-miss visit if you want to encounter artists like Velázquez, Goya, Dalí, Miró or Picasso. In Madrid, the Art Walk made up of the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia National Museum offers a tour through the history of art up to the present day. Contemporary art is the protagonist at centres such as the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the MACBA of Barcelona, ​​the IVAM of Valencia and the Pompidou Centre in Malaga, not to mention numerous art galleries and alternative cultural spaces, especially in Madrid and Barcelona. The Picasso museums of Málaga and Barcelona are simply unmissable to immerse yourself in the world of Pablo Picasso. These are just a few examples taken from a long list. Spain has more than 1,600 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 also museums and cultural centres such as the Guggenheim Bilbao (Frank Gehry), the City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia (Santiago Calatrava), the MUSAC of Leon (Tuñón & Mansilla), the Botín Centre (Renzo Piano), the Niemeyer Centre (Óscar Niemeyer) or the extensions of the Prado Museum (Rafael Moneo) or the Reina Sofia (Jean Nouvel). Also noteworthy are auditoriums and venues such as the Palau de Sant Jordi (Arata Isozaki) and 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- Get to know the most modern side of inland Spain- Four art centres that break the mold in Andalusia- 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 Camino de Santiago. 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 Via 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 learn about some of the most popular tourist routes in Spain.

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 Easter Week, and some have even been awarded Intangible World Heritage status by UNESCO.

Easter 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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