One aspect to Spain that is often overlooked is its world class heritage. In fact, it may surprise you to know that Spain is second only to Italy for its UNESCO World Heritage sites, of which it has 42 to Italy’s 47. By comparison the UK has 28.
I say that Spain’s World Heritage position may be a ‘surprise’ because, for most people, Spain is perceived as little more than a country with some excellent beaches, a great climate and cheap booze. Indeed, it is probably fair to say that the vast majority of Spain’s 53 million annual tourists have little or no interest in the culture of Spain and come to the country for their summer holidays to escape the vagaries of North European weather. Once on the beach, of course, few stray far, apart from, perhaps, a brief day out to some (usually over-rated, over-commercialised and desperately crowded) ‘beauty’ spot.
In reality, Spain has an enormous amount to offer beyond its beaches and it is well worth knowing what is around before you choose the location for your holiday in Spain. That way, you can plan to combine a beach holiday in Spain with seeing some of the true wonders of the world. These can hugely enhance any holiday and are likely to stay firmly in your memory long after fond memories of lying pickled on some beach have passed!
Spain is second only to Italy for its UNESCO World Heritage sites, of which it has 42 to Italy’s 47. By comparison the UK has 28.
So – what are Spain’s world class cultural heritage sites and where are they located?
Well, here is the full list, courtesy of the excellent UNESCO World Heritage site, which also provides the reasons why each of the Heritage Sites in Spain have been chosen:
- Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada 21
- Burgos Cathedral
- Historic Centre of Cordoba 22
- Monastery and Site of the Escurial, Madrid
- Works of Antoni Gaudí 23
- Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain
- Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias 24
- Old Town of Ávila with its Extra-Muros Churches
- Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct
- Santiago de Compostela (Old Town)
- Garajonay National Park
- Historic City of Toledo
- Mudejar Architecture of Aragon 25
- Old Town of Cáceres
- Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville
- Old City of Salamanca
- Poblet Monastery
- Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida
- Route of Santiago de Compostela
- Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe
- Doñana National Park
- Historic Walled Town of Cuenca
- La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia
- Las Médulas
- Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona
- Pyrénées – Mont Perdu *
- San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries
- Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde * 26
- Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula
- University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares
- Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture
- San Cristóbal de La Laguna
- Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco
- Archaeological Site of Atapuerca
- Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí
- Palmeral of Elche
- Roman Walls of Lugo 27
- Aranjuez Cultural Landscape
- Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza
- Vizcaya Bridge
- Teide National Park
- Tower of Hercules
- Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana
Incidentally, travel in Spain is often surprisingly simple and quick – so do not be put off should a Spanish World Heritage Site not be right beside where you are staying. The roads throughout Spain are astoundingly good (due to colossal amounts of EU money!) and remarkably free of traffic, which means you can travel long distances with an ease and speed inconceivable in places like the UK. Meanwhile, the rail network is very cheap (unless you travel by AVE).
Of course, it makes sense to plan trips to Spain that are dedicated just to seeing the best of the culture of Spain or rather the best of international culture – because that is what the UNESCO World Heritage sites are all about. Certainly, few of the World Heritage sites in Spain will not have you gasping at the beauty on offer and you will know that what you are seeing has been acknowledged as universally important and exceptional!
Incidentally, an obvious joy for anyone interested in the best of Spanish culture is that the climate in Spain is generally so benign that you can enjoy terrific weather out of the high tourist season which means that you can really ‘win’ by booking a culture tour in Spain during the winter months. At this time you can often find the weather delightful, few other tourists around and that local hotels and Paradors are offering very competitive packages.
In short, we all seem to think of Spain only as somewhere for our summer holidays. However, in reality, Spain is much more than just great beaches – it is a repository for some of the most wonderful sights in the world!
RELEVANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE CULTURE OF SPAIN