Just as the world has Seven wonders, Spain has Twelve national treasures! The Twelve Treasures of Spain was a project conducted in 2007, where the people of Spain voted on their favorite and most important places, monuments, and buildings in the country. This signified what the Spanish people believed were the most beautiful and unique places across the country. With so many stunning and rich places in Spain, we bet that it was a real challenge to choose only Twelve, but nonetheless, we can see why these Twelve won their place.
1. Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias translates to “The City of Arts and Sciences”. This futuristic and fabulous piece of architectural artwork is the most popular tourist attraction in all of the city of Valencia. La Ciudad has something for everyone, not only does it regularly have different events and festival celebrations, one can always find something to do regardless! Whether someone enjoys an IMAX cinema experience, a light show, theater, paddle boarding, water biking, or the largest aquarium in all of Europe, there is always something worth seeing or doing.
This city is absolutely mesmerizing, and never fails to impress and leave a wonderful impression on those who see it with their own eyes.
Built by the inspiration of Islamic Architecture mixed with other styles, this fortress turned royal palace is often the sole reason that tourists visit Granada. Not only is the bird’s eye view of the entire city phenomenal, the intricacy and specifics in the architecture of the actual palace is unlike any other. Constructed with colorful red stones and multi-colored mosaics, this palace is incredibly well preserved, despite being over 800 years old!
3. Cave of Altamira
You might be wondering “what’s so special about a cave to be considered a treasure?” and that’s a valid question, but this isn’t just any cave. The Cave of Altamira is world-famous because it has some of the earliest drawings ever found by humankind, with some dating back 36,000 years ago!
Art and History buffs both love this place because it’s a fascinating look at our ancestors, not to mention that the drawings are well preserved despite dating back tens of thousands of years old. You can see ancient stories of wild animals and human handprints right before your very eyes, and then take a tour of the gallery which educates on the methods used to draw these stories, and gain insight in what they mean.
4. Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
This building has actually served not two, but three different religions. Originally a Roman Temple, it was re-built and refined to become a Mosque, and after two entire centuries, in 987 AD it was finished. In 1236, King Ferdinand III converted this mosque into the city’s Christian Cathedral.
This 1,000+ year-old building has a hypnotizing design and color scheme, tall columns, and multi-colored arches. All of the renovations of this building ended up resulting in a grand hybrid of architecture, becoming no less than majestic to the eyes.
5. Seville Cathedral
In southern Spain, you can find the Seville Cathedral, which is the biggest Cathedral in the entire world. This historically significant site was built on the remains of an ancient Mosque called Aljama, but some of the Mosque’s remains can still be seen even today.
Building the world’s biggest Cathedral is no easy task, which is why it took over 120 years to fully build and complete. The sheer size of this Cathedral is not only unbelievable and grandiose, but the attention to detail and design are top-tier.
6. Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar
A phenomenal piece of religious history. The Basilica is believed to be the first church to be built in dedication to the Virgin Mary, and legend has it that it was built by the Apostle, Saint James himself. The current building is over 200 years old, featuring the baroque architectural art style, although the history of the church dates back all the way to the origins of Christianity. You can find this intricate church that reflects the Ebro River in the city of Zaragoza.
7. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
The Guggenheim Museum was opened in 1997, and features both national and international contemporary and modern art. To this day, this museum is one of the largest in the entire country, running all the way from the Atlantic coastline, to the heart of Bilbao on top of the Nervión River. With its modern design, Guggenheim is considered to be a contemporary architecture dream; even the building itself is a piece of art, combining titanium curves, and a tall glass atrium, giving off a futuristic feel and look.
8. Beach of La Concha
While Spain has countless beautiful golden and white sand beaches, the Playa de la Concha, or Beach of La Concha, is the only one that made it into the Twelve Treasures of Spain. Located in San Sebastián, the crescent-shaped beach is between two mountains, with the Santa Clara Island in the middle, close enough that people can swim to! Visitors can also paddle, kayak, or wind sail on top of the azure-colored water.
9. Sagrada Família
The Sagrada Família in Barcelona is technically still being constructed to this day! Designed by the famous architect Antoni Gaudí in 1852, this church is expected to finish constructing sometime in the late 2020s, taking almost 200 years to complete.
Once completed, the enitre architectural masterpiece will have 18 towers, with the church having the capacity to fit around 9,000 people. With color-stained windows, tall elaborate columns and arches, this church will be one of the biggest in the entire country, and will have taken as much time to build as the leaning tower of Pisa!
10. Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
An ancient Roman Catholic Cathedral with the impressive lifespan of over 800 years, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is located in the city of Galicia, in the north-west of Spain. It’s stated to be the burial place of one of Jesus Christ’s Apostles, Saint James the Great, thus the building has both historical and religious significance.
The cathedral is designed so a multitude of paths all lead to it, which made it a popular spot in the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route which has been constant and important since the Middle Ages. The Cathedral boasts several designs, incorporating three styles of architecture, those being Baroque, Gothic, and Romanesque.
11. Roman Theater of Mérida
This phenomenal theater that’s located in Mérida, dates back over Two Thousand years, to 1st century B.C. Originally built during the Roman reign of Spain, the theater sat 6,000 and was used as an entertainment complex, mostly for theatric shows, and occasionally for gladiatorial events.
The well-preserved building is lined with a marble floor, and showcases marble columns with statues of old Emperors and Gods on top. The Mérida Roman Theater today hosts the festival of Mérida, which is the oldest showcase of classical theater in Spain.
12. Teide National Park
A nature and geology lover’s dream. Located on the Canary Island of Tenerife, this park is on top of the active Teide Volcano, and is home to Mount Teide, which has the largest mountain peak in the country, boasting a breathtaking view. This national park hosts around 3 million tourists annually, making the most popular park not only in Spain, but in all of Europe.
With a multitude of trails and ways to explore (such as the tourist-favorite cable car line), you can see something special with every step, including local flora and fauna that has adapted to the volcanic environment for over 3 million years. This park features over 40 different trails, with ranging difficulty, making it perfect for anyone who wants to be active in their visit, no matter what their endurance and skill levels are.
The Twelve Treasures of Spain are all unique in their own way, some showcase Spain’s rich history and culture, while others take a more futuristic, mesmerizing approach of wonder and awe. While there are many other significant buildings and locations that didn’t make the list, these Twelve Treasures are perfect examples of what you can expect of Spain. Get to know more about Spain and its beautiful and full-of-life festivals here.