Spain is a diamond brut. It has never ceased to astonish and surprise. Over the years, it became the third place to host the most UNESCO world heritage sites, with 49 monuments to its credit. Here’s the UNESCO world heritage site in Spain that should be on your bucket list.
1. UNESCO world heritage site in Spain: the Altamira Caves in Cantabria
If we go back a little bit in time, say between 35,000 and 11,000 BC, men were starting to accumulate knowledge and draw on walls. The Altamira Caves are perfect reflections of this resolved time. Located in Cantabria, it’s one of the most preserved caves in Europe. The paleolithic art that you will gaze at in this place, has kept its bright colors. Bison, deers, and horses are represented according to the vision of prehistoric men and women. It’s fascinating. Abstract symbols next to the animals are still being decoded by historians nowadays. It shows how surprisingly sophisticated the culture was at that time.
In any case, several hypotheses run on why these men painted on the walls. Some experts suppose that drawings were part of funeral rituals, to make contact with the spirits. This means that, maybe, we can contact them now, while visiting their former caves.
2. Gaudí artwork in Barcelona
This artist is unmissable if you visit Barcelona. He’s the design creator of seven properties scattered throughout the city. UNESCO describes Gaudí’s works as eclectic, though it comes from a single mind. His style has come to life through the design of gardens, sculptures, decorative arts, and of course architecture.
The most famous UNESCO world heritage site in Spain is definitely la Sagrada Familia. It took more than 133 years to near completion. But the result is unique and breathtaking. When you enter, you are sheltered in a forest of columns. The church is modern and colorful. You also can go up to the monument and witness a beautiful view of Barcelona. It’s fascinating to observe that even 100 years after Gaudí’s death, people continue to perpetuate his work…
If you are interested in seeing more of his masterpieces, you can visit Park Güell. located in the heights of Barcelona, it was originally created by the artist to host wealthy Catalan families (including his). In 1926, the park became public. Since then, both local and worldwide tourists enjoy chilling in this unique place. The Park Güell is also one of the most visited monuments in Barcelona. I mean, even if you haven’t gone to the park yet, you know the famous salamander fountains on the steps or the benches decorated with trencadis (broken ceramic mosaic). But the artist’s work doesn’t cover the whole area. The majority of the place is a more traditional park, free for everybody.
Casa Batlló and many more
Another beautiful piece of art: is la Casa Batlló. Gaudí’s art might be abstract for most visitors, but every work the artist has done is a reference to living creatures. Inside the Casa Batlló, you will gaze at bat-shaped windows and climb the staircase which takes the form of a spine. On the top of the monument, the colorful facades will strangely remind you of a dragon’s scales. This place is located next to Casa Milà, another distinct Gaudí piece of art.
If you want to see other monuments by this artist, we recommend you to check Casa Figueras, Casa Vicens, Palau Güell, Teresianas School, or Casa Calvet. In other words, the only way to gaze at all of Gaudí’s genius is to walk throughout Barcelona for several days.
3. UNESCO world heritage site in Spain: the tower of Hercules in Coruña
Originally named Farum Brigantium, this lighthouse is the landmark of Coruña port, which is located northeast of Spain. It was constructed in the early years A.D by the Romans and still operates today. Boats can see the lighthouse from far away because it’s situated on a 57 meters rock. In addition, the structure stands about 54 meters high; 34 meters are actually from the original Romain lighthouse, and the last 21 meters are from the restoration directed by the architect Eustaquio Giannini.
But the tower of Hercules is not the only monument worth the visit in Coruña Port. Tourists can walk through a parc of sculptures, see petroglyphs of Monte dos Bicos and visit a Muslim graveyard.
The tower of Hercules is the only phare from the Greco-Romane Antiquity to have been restored that is still in operation. That’s why it’s one of the UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain and is therefore worth the visit.
4. Las Médulas in Province of León
Located in the northwest of Spain, this region was the last one to be taken by the Romans. In the first century A.D., they discovered that the area hid gold deposits. Greedy to possess everything, they started to dig with techniques based on hydraulic power. They used this land for two centuries, before leaving behind them a completely devastated landscape. The traces of this extraction technique are still visible today, which makes the scenery of Las Médulas disturbing and unique at the same time. It has miles of mountainous colorful slopes and vast areas of mine tailings, which contrast with the green surrounding.
5. UNESCO world heritage site in Spain : Alcalá de Henares, a city-university
Alcalà de Henares is unique in the world. Constructed in the 16th century over the ruins of an old medieval town, it’s the first university city. Its purpose was ambitious; to become a model for other universities worldwide. At that time, people who wanted to study literature and humanism settled in this place. Moreover, Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote was born there!
In 1998, the whole city became a UNESCO world heritage site in Spain. Since then, the place is visited by a lot of tourists, curious to gaze at the Iglesia Magistral, the Archbishop’s Palace, or San Ildefonso chapel.
What are the criteria to be labeled a historical legacy?
Why are these monuments classified as UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain? All the mysteries of humans and nature classified by UNESCO have one thing in common: they are a legacy of our past. Something worth conserving and studying. Something that is beautiful and a mark of human or mother nature genius. UNESCO considers a site a heritage when it’s an “irreplaceable source of life and inspiration…our touchstones, our points of reference, our identity” (citation from World Heritage 2008).
This referencing began after WWI when people discovered the destruction of important sites generated by the war. In 1972, UNESCO wrote the Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, and started to classify international sites.
Cultural and natural heritages
Thanks to the organization’s intervention, important cultural and natural heritages have been in the spotlight ever since. UNESCO considers a site a cultural patrimony when it includes monuments, architectural structures, and/or art and science items. As for natural heritages, they must be beautiful and/or be a major scientific discovery. According to the Operational Guidelines 2012 of UNESCO, the sites classified transcend their nationalities to become universal values. Therefore, the organization follows 10 criteria to know if the monuments should enter the UNESCO worldwide heritage site list.
To sum up, if Spain hosts 49 classified sites, it’s not by chance. It’s the result of a rich and deep history related to the country. A wild range of cultural and natural heritage, and every part is worth a visit. Each city in Spain has one patrimony site or is close to at least one. The Alhambra Palace is in Granada, whereas Antequera has the dolmens site. But not every legacy is a monument or scenery. In fact, flamenco is also part of the UNESCO worldwide heritage site in Spain. So, I think I have given you enough reasons to go on vacation in this beautiful and sophisticated country.