From North to South and East to West, the Spanish Cultural Heritage De Norte a Sur y de Este a Oeste, el Patrimonio Cultural de España
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway… are just some of the many foreign writers who found in Spain a source of inspiration, and a place to dream of. And it is not surprising, since wherever you go and wherever you look, either if you cross Spain from North to South or from East to West, you will never find the same Spain: there is the Spain of the ordinary human being; the Spain of white alleys adorned with geraniums; the Spain of Roman cobblestones; the rural Spain, sometimes so “enxebre” and other times so Castilian; the Spain that smells of the sun and tastes of saltpeter… There is the Spain of the peasant, that of tradition, the Spain that travels through time and that is capable of telling anyone stories that resonate to One Thousand and One Nights or songs able to awaken even the dullest soul. Each of them is different, multifaceted, daring in its own way and they give the visiting eye a total of 48 scenarios that have been recognized and awarded by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
World Heritage Sites in Spain:
UNESCO establishes that these 48 scenarios have an “exceptional universal value” and are part of the common heritage of humanity. Apart from these spectacular sites, Spain also has a set of intangible elements that are part of the Cultural Heritage, such as the “Fiestas de los Patios de Córdoba”, “Fiestas de las Fallas”, the Flamenco or the “Castells”. Apart from that, we have exceptional places where we will travel throughout our journey through the different regions. If we start our tour in the Canary and Balearic Islands, it is important to highlight the Teide National Park, a natural spot that results in the combination of colours, shapes and contrasts that seem from another planet, or the Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana , where you can see how ancient agriculture has transformed the landscape.
If we continue our route to mainland Spain, in Andalusia, we find the monument of the Alhambra, one of the most visited World Heritage sites in Spain. Strolling through its beautiful Nasrid palaces, through its gardens, its courtyards we are taken back to the times when Muslims lived on the Peninsula. If we follow the footprints that Muslims left in Andalusia, we must also mention the Mosque of Cordoba, considered one of the most beautiful places in our country, or the Caliphate City of Medina Azahara where we can observe the archaeological remains of the monumental city of the Caliphate. Continuing our journey through Andalusia, we must not forget the Alcazar, the Archive of Indies and the Cathedral of Seville, three emblematic jewels of the Andalusian capital full of history, the Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Ubeda and Baeza, the Antequera Dolmens Site or the natural places that are part of the Natural Heritage such as the Doñana National Park.
Leaving Andalusia behind, we head towards Castilla la Mancha where we have several scenarios declared World Heritage Sites. Among them, it is worth highlighting the historic city of Toledo, inhabited by different civilisations and cultures, or the fortified city of Cuenca, where nature and architecture coexist, making Cuenca a unique city. The mercury mines of Almaden and Idrija were also awarded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
If we stop on the way through Extremadura, we find the Archaeological Ensemble of Merida, also known as Emerita Augusta in Roman times, being one of the most important cities in Roman Hispania. In it we find beautiful Roman vestiges, such as a theatre, an amphitheatre, a circus and a beautiful aqueduct. Following our tour, we come across the Old Town of Caceres, considered one of the most monumental cities in Spain by combining different styles, such as Romanesque, Muslim, Gothic and Renaissance, which is also part of the beautiful World Heritage sites of our country. In the same province, we must highlight the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe, one of the most beautiful monastic complexes in the country.
If we head towards the Mediterranean, it is important to mention the Lonja de la Seda in Valencia, which shows the power and wealth of a great city from the 15th and 16th centuries, or the Palmeral of Elche, in the Valencian Community, a unique example of Arab agricultural techniques in Europe, although it is believed that its origin is even older and dates back to the time when the Phoenicians and Romans inhabited the area. If we continue north until we reach Catalonia we have the Works of Antonio Gaudí in Barcelona, among them the Sagrada Familia or the Park Güell. What is also part of the World Heritage Site of our country is the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona, which have an exquisite decoration. Other Catalan settings awarded by UNESCO are the Monastery of Poblet, in Tarragona, or the Romanesque Churches of Vall del Boí, in Lleida.
In Aragon we find different architectural ensembles scattered across the provinces of Teruel and Zaragoza that are part of the Mudejar Architecture of Aragon. If we continue towards La Rioja, we have the Monasteries of San Millan de Yuso and Suso, considered the cradle of the Spanish language. In the Basque Country, it is worth mentioning the Vizcaya Bridge, an outstanding construction of the Industrial Revolution with the innovative use of steel cables, and the Cave of Altamira and Palaeolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain, where vestiges and paintings from thousands of years ago are preserved.
If we travel to the capital of the country, Madrid, we have the Monument and Site of the Escurial, an imposing monastic complex that includes a palace, a basilica, a school, a library, a pantheon and a monastery. Another World Heritage site that we find in the Community of Madrid is the University and Historic Precinct of Alcala de Henares, which was the first university city in the world, founded in the 15th century, which served as a model for a large number of international universities. Finally, in Madrid we must not forget Aranjuez Cultural Landscape, a beautiful palace with majestic gardens that represent the union between humanity and nature, giving rise to a combination of incomparable beauty.
If we continue our journey towards Galicia, we must stop in Castilla Leon, where we find spectacular World Heritage sites. One of them is the Cathedral of Burgos, one of the most important Gothic temples in Spain and possibly also on the Routes of Santiago de Compostela. The Old Town of Avila with its Extra-Muros Churches is another city awarded by UNESCO. This award includes its historic town, the interior of the wall and several churches located outside the walled city. Another World Heritage Site is the Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct, with abundant architectural legacy. Its medieval walls, its old royal palace, its Gothic cathedral and its Roman aqueduct are remarkable. It is also important to mention the Old City of Salamanca, known as the “Golden City” for the colour of the stone of its monuments. Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque monuments converge in the same old town. Nor can we leave Castilla without entering the Archaeological Site of Atapuerca (Burgos) with fossil remains of the first human beings who settled in Europe, or without enjoying the picturesque landscape of Las Medulas (Leon), the largest gold mine in the Roman Empire.
After enjoying the beauty of Castilla, we arrived at the Principality of Asturias. Galicians and Asturians are said to be extraordinarily alike. In Asturias we will find spectacular landscapes that make us evade reality, such as the Picos de Europa. On our tour through the Principality, we can wonder at the Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of Asturias, a series of architectural constructions built during the Kingdom of Asturias, such as the Churches of Santa Maria del Naranco or San Miguel de Lillo, the Holy Chamber of the Cathedral of San Salvador or the Foncalada Fountain, among others.
And at last we arrived in Galicia, our beloved land. Galicia, a land of magic, a land of traditions and history. Magic and mysticism surrounds the places throughout the Routes of Camino de Santiago de Compostela, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Within its journey, the pilgrim enjoys a large number of important architectural constructions, such as churches, bridges or even walls. In Lugo we have the Roman Walls of Lugo, built in the second century to defend the Roman city of Lucus Augusta. On one of the routes of the Camino de Santiago, we find the Tower of Hercules, considered the oldest Roman lighthouse in the world, which guides the lost ships in the darkness of the night. Finally we arrive at Santiago de Compostela, whose historic town was declared a World Heritage Site. Santiago is a city that dazzles every visitor, with streets with a special charm and monuments of authentic beauty, such as the Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago, one of the most beautiful temples in the country. We will talk about this and much more in our publications. Through them, we will get to know the “authentic” Galicia, its customs, its traditions, its people, accompanying the pilgrim along the Camino de Santiago.
- “Centro del Patrimonio Mundial” – UNESCO: https://whc.unesco.org/es/list/?iso=es&search
- “España – Patrimonio Inmaterial – Sector Cultura” – UNESCO: https://ich.unesco.org/es/estado/espana-ES?info=elementos-en-las-listas
- “Intangible Cultural Heritage: The Living Culture of Peoples,” by Federico Lenzerini, European Journal of International Law: http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/1/101.full
- “World Heritage Sites in Spain” – UNESCO: https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/es