12 Breathtaking Castles in Spain
Castles in Spain are one of the most amazing attractions in the country. They’re full of history and interesting facts to discover!
Keep reading for fascinating information about the history of castles in Spain, plus a list of 12 incredible castles.
The Historical Importance of Castles in Spain
In Spain, the beginning of the 8th century to the end of the 15th century was a long period of intermittent warfare. Battles raged not only between Christians and Muslims, but also between the kingdoms and the Taifa.
This led to the construction of countless fortresses. Castles in Spain started with a military purpose.
Although some castles in Spain have remained inhabited since their construction, most were abandoned as their original defensive uses were superseded by weapon technology.
An impressive collection castles in good condition still survive in Spain that have almost completely preserved their pure medieval structure.
A peculiar characteristic of castles in Spain, compared to those in the rest of Europe, is their ownership. In feudal Europe, the castle was owned by a nobleman who lent it to his vassals in case of aggression in exchange for a tax. In contrast, castles in Spain began as royal property, as they were spoils of war and were later ceded to the government, wardens, or tenants.
Without castles, Spain wouldn’t have had protection during the battles and the Christian reconquest of the country, which is why they’re an important symbol for Spain.
12 Breathtaking Castles in Spain
Castles in Spain not only represent an important part of history, but also one of the greatest beauties of the country. Read this list to discover 12 breathtaking castles in Spain, along with unique information about each one.
1. El Alcázar de Segovia
The Alcázar de Segovia was a Spanish-Arab fortress-palace erected in the 12th century. That same century, and with King Alfonso X inside, it sank. Later kings restored and expanded it; the castle’s current appearance dates back to the reign of Felipe II.
As in other cases, the Alcázar also served as a prison and as the headquarters of the Royal Artillery College. It was built to serve as both a fortress and royal residence.
This castle that inspired the design of Cinderella’s castle at Disney World! Visitors can access all areas of the castle, and an audio guide is available.
2. El Castillo de Butrón
The castle of Butrón takes us back to the Middle Ages. It is located in Gatika and surrounded by a centuries-old forest.
For more than 300 years, since the 16th century, the castle was the scene of bloody fights between two groups of nobility from Bizkaia. The lords of Butrón, refugees in the castle, exercised their power around the territory.
However, Butrón was not always a castle. In the mid-13th century, the Butrón residence was a tower-house, and the Lord of Butrón subsequently transformed it into a castle.
When the fighting ended at the beginning of the 16th century, the castle was abandoned until its restoration at the end of the 19th century. It has also inspired fairy tales castles and is definitely one of the castles in Spain you must see!
3. El Castillo de Bellver
Bellver Castle sits on a hill at Palma in Mallorca. It was built by King James of Majorca during the 14th century as both a residence and fortification, protecting the crown through several sieges until it fell in the 16th century.
The central courtyard is now a concert venue and site for cultural events. Guided tours of the castle are available, and it houses a history museum.
4. El Castillo de Coca
Located in the town of Coca in Segovia, Coca Castle is a Christian-era palace featuring a tan brick exterior and multiple towers. It was built in the 15th century as a fortification for the town of Coca, and the castle’s architecture is Mudejar (Spanish Muslim) Gothic.
Unfortunately, the interior of the castle is in poor condition, but guided tours provide insight into what the palace looked like in its golden days as the seat of the Crown of Castille. It’s currently owned by the Casa de Alba and happens to be one of the few medieval castles in Spain that was not built on a hill.
5. El Castillo de Loarre
Located in northeastern Spain, the Loarre Castle was designed as both a military fortification and a royal residence. It’s particularly well-protected by the limestone bedrock that forms its foundation, barring sneak attacks from an underground tunnel.
It was built in the late 11th century for King Sancho Ramírez I of Aragon, and in the following century the Romanesque Church of Santa María was added. Also, it was a strategic outpost on the plain of Bolea, controlled by the Muslims. A century after the main construction, the walls were raised, which cover a considerable part of the hillside.
This is one the few castles in Spain without Moorish influences in its architecture.
6. El Castillo de Olite
The castle of Olite is the most representative image of Navarre, Spain and one of the icons of the old kingdom. It was built during the 12th and 13th centuries on the site of a former Roman fortress.
Carlos III and his wife Leonor de Trastámara made it the most luxurious medieval castle in Europe. The original section is known now as the Palacio Viejo (Old Palace), and the Palacio Nuevo (New Palace) was added in the 15th century.
The Gothic castle has been under the care of the Spanish government since the early 20th century. This castle in Spain has been recognized as a national monument since 1925.
7. El Castillo de Peñíscola
Located on the southeastern coast between Valencia and Tarragona, Peñíscola Castle overlooks one of Spain’s beach towns from a height of 64 meters above sea level. It was built in the 14th century by the Knights Templar, which is why the construction followed the style of Holy Land fortresses. Once the Templars abandoned it, the fortress was the last home of Benedict XIII, better known as Pope Luna.
This castle has walls of carved stone and barrel-vaulted rooms. Although it has a solid construction and changes haven’t been elemental, it was remodeled on several occasions. During the War of Independence (1808-1814), it was occupied by the French. Today, Game of Thrones fans will recognize this Spanish castle as a part of Meereen.
8. El Castillo de la Mota
This castle was a medieval fortress, and it’s located in Spain’s Valladolid Province. The original structure was built in the 11th and 12th centuries using concrete with a brick facade. The holes left from the timber framing are often mistaken as scars from old battles. The castle underwent extensive renovations during the 15th century before falling under the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella.
The most distinguished part of the castle is the Torre del Homenaje (Homage Tower), a rectangular tower that sits in the northeast corner of the inner section of the castle. It is often referred to as the Great Tower of Castile. The castle is open to visitors.
9. El Castillo de Manzanares de Real
Also known as Castillo de los Mendoza, this is a palace-fortress of medieval origin located in Madrid. It was built in the 15th century on a Romanesque-Mudejar church, which was integrated into the structure. The architect Juan Guas participated in its construction, using Elizabethan Gothic traces, with Hispanic-Muslim influences.
It was conceived as a key work of Spanish Renaissance architecture to convey an image of wealth and power. Inside, it showcases great works of art, including collections of tapestries, paintings, armor, and furniture of the 16th to 19th centuries.
The granite castle has a hexagonal main tower and four circular towers. Visitors are allowed to tour the whole palace.
10. El Castillo de los Templarios de Ponferrada
This castle is located on a hill between the Boeza and Sil rivers, in Ponferrada (León province). With a curious polygon shape, it has two distinct parts: the northern part, from the 12th century, and the rest, built throughout the 15th century. Heraldic emblems of the Catholic monarchs are on the towers.
In ancient times, the castle was surrounded by a moat, except in the northwestern part, where the river fulfilled the same function. Inside, it has a group of fortifications of Templar origin. Before entering the courtyard, a defensive enclosure leads to the Cabrera tower, connected to the first defensive line of the semicircular tower, used for dungeons and for communication with the second line of defense.
11. Castillo de Belalcázar
Also known as Sotomayor Castle, this imposing 15th-century Gothic fortress is in the city of Belalcázar, Province of Córdoba in Spain. It boasts the highest Tribute tower in the entire Iberian Peninsula—it’s 47 meters high and is meticulously ornamented.
In the 16th century, a palatial area with a Renaissance style was added. During the War of Independence, it was occupied by the French, causing the Sotomayor castle to fall into decline.
On May 6, 1811, an English division of 5,000 men laid siege to the castle, protected by 40 men from the 51st Regiment of the line under Lieutenant Charpentier. They hit the fortress with 200 shots, only slightly chipping the eastern wall. The residents of Belalcázar, fearing a new invasion by the French, requested from the Countess of Belalcázar that the fortress towers be dismantled, to which the lady agreed, and they began to inconsiderately demolish, first the palace and later the castle, taking advantage of the materials in the construction and decoration of some houses in the town.
12. Castillo de Monterrei
Monterrei Castle is one of the best-preserved fortresses in Galicia, Spain. It is located on a hill above the Támega River. The complex dates from the 10th century, although some elements are later and were reformed due to the Civil War and the War of Independence.
Its main characteristic is a triple defensive system made up of two walls and a counter-wall. Inside, there is the old pilgrims’ hospital (built in the 14th century), the homage tower, the Palace of the Counts, the adies’ tower, the church of Santa María de Gracia, and the Atalaya.
Practice Your Spanish
Aren’t these castles in Spain awesome? Although these are amazing options to visit, there are plenty more castles in Spain to discover and enjoy! Leave me a comment about which one was your favorite and why as a way to practice your Spanish!
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