Spain is home to some of the most stunning architecture in Europe, known throughout the world for its distinguishable form and famous historical monuments. With influences from the Romans to the Moors, you’ll find each city has a unique architectural style. From the classic Andalusian architecture of Seville and Córdoba, to the Moorish style of Granada, the elegant Baroque and Renaissance details in Salamanca, and the mix of Gothic and Modernista styles in Barcelona – here are five Spanish cities that will have you falling for their beautiful architecture.
A medieval city, Seville is one of the most beautiful and most romantic in the country, largely due to its impressive architecture. Think tiny alleyways with whitewashed buildings, cobbled streets with overhanging, intricate wrought iron balconies, and charming boulevards with mansions painted orange and lemon. Begin your architectural tour in the old Jewish quarter of Barrio de Santa Cruz, walk along the Guadalquivir River and across the bridge to the old gypsy district of Triana, known for its ceramic and tile workshops. Some of Seville’s standout buildings include La Giralda, a Gothic cathedral with an Islamic minaret; the Plaza de España, created for the Ibero-American Expo of 1929 and flanked by sophisticated towers and small pavilions; the Moorish palace of the Real Alcázar; and the Plaza de Toros (bullring), one of the oldest in Spain, dating back to 1765.
Barcelona is of course world-famous for its architecture, most notably the works of Antoni Gaudí, such as the peacock-colored Casa Batlló, the undulating La Pedrera and the awe-inspiring Sagrada Família. The city’s architectural wonders are not limited to Gaudí works however – at every turn you’ll see impressive Gothic churches, wide plazas circled by elaborate facades, and of course ornamented Modernista buildings full of mosaics and floral motifs. One of the best streets for architecture is the famous Passeig de Gràcia, which is lined with many stunning structures. Just three streets parallel is Carrer d’Enric Granados, with exquisite buildings fit for noblemen, and in the small neighborhoods of Gràcia, El Born and Sant Andreu you’ll find different styles still, with narrow alleyways and peaceful plazas.
Granada’s most famous piece of architecture is of course the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Alhambra Palace, the elaborate Moorish castle and fortress towering above the city. Almost everywhere you stand in Granada you can see the Alhambra, a reminder of the city’s illustrious past. However, the center down below and the hillsides are filled with charming architectural structures that are just as impressive in their own right. Climb the cobbled streets of the Moorish quarter in Albaicín and you’ll find cute, whitewashed buildings dotting the mountainside. Go further still and you’ll find the gypsy district of Sacromonte, where many people still live in unique cave homes carved into the sides of the rock.
A mixture of Baroque, Renaissance and Plateresque architectural styles, Salamanca is one of the most attractive cities in Spain. Its Old City has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and at its heart lies the Salamanca University. A monument and city symbol, it’s more than just an educational institution. The university’s intricately carved Plateresque facade is quite a sight to behold. Legend has it that if you can find the frog hidden on its walls it will bring you good luck. Another of Salamanca’s impressive sights is its Plaza Mayor – the largest public square in the country, built in the 18th century in an elegant Spanish Baroque style. On its north side sits the City Hall, with its graceful golden arches and royal medallions.
With its classic Andalusian style of whitewashed houses mixed with quaint balconies and welcoming internal patios, you can’t help but fall in love with Córdoba. Yet what makes this city worthy of our list is how those elements combine with the Moorish style of Mudéjar, most evident in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of La Mezquita, a mosque and cathedral in one. Seamlessly blending Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles of Christian architecture with the Moorish Islamic styles, it must be witnessed up close to truly appreciate its majestic size and beauty. Another important architectural sight is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, an impressive Gothic-style castle with gardens influenced by the Moors, and featuring Arabic baths.