World Heritage Sites in Spain

I’m sure you’re familiar with UNESCO World Heritage Sites which are selected because of their ‘special cultural or physical significance’. Spain began to participate with UNESCO in 1982 and originally five sites were selected for inclusion:

  • the Mezquita in Cordoba
  • the Alhambra in Granada
  • Burgos Cathedral
  • Park Güell, Palau Güell and Casa Milà in Barcelona
  • El Escorial outside Madrid

Today Spain is the second most represented country on the list of World Heritage Sites with 44 which is one less than Italy. Two of the sites are shared, one with France and another with Portugal.

Gaudi's Parc Guell

Gaudi’s Parc Güell in Barcelona

Roman Ruins in Tarragona

Tárraco Roman Ruins in Tarragona

1984 Historic Centre of Cordoba Andalucia
1984 Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzin, Granada Andalucia
1984 Burgos Cathedral Castilla y Leon
1984 Monastery and Site of El Escorial, Madrid Madrid
1984 Parque Güell, Palacio Güell & Casa Mila in Barcelona Catalonia
1985 Altamira Cave Cantabria
1985 Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct Castilla y Leon
1985 Monuments of Oviedo & the Kingdom of Asturias Asturias
1985 Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) Galicia
1985 Old Town of Avila, with its Extra-Muros churches Castilla y Leon
1986 Garajonay National Park Canary Islands
1986 Mudejar Architecture of Aragon Aragon
1986 Historic City of Toledo Castilla La Mancha
1986 Old Town of Caceres Extremadura
1987 Cathedral, Alcazar & Archivo de Indias in Seville Andalucia
1988 Old City of Salamanca Castilla y Leon
1991 Poblet Monastery Catalonia
1993 Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida Extremadura
1993 Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe Extremadura
1993 Route of Santiago de Compostela Galicia
1994 Doñana National Park Andalucia
1996 Historic Walled Town of Cuenca Castilla La Mancha
1996 La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia Valencia
1997 Las Médulas Castilla y Leon
1997 Palau de la Música Catalana & Hospital de Sant Pau Catalonia
1997 San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries La Rioja
1997 Monte Perdido – Pyrenees Aragon
1998 University & Historic Alcalá de Henares Madrid
1998 Rock-Art of the Mediterranean Basin Various
1999 Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture Balearic Islands
1999 San Cristóbal de La Laguna Canary Islands
2000 Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco Catalonia
2000 Palmeral of Elche Valencia
2000 Roman Walls of Lugo Galicia
2000 Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí Catalonia
2000 Archaeological Site of Atapuerca Castilla y Leon
2001 Aranjuez Cultural Landscape Madrid
2003 Renaissance Monuments of Ubeda & Baeza Andalucia
2004 Vizcaya Bridge Basque Country
2007 Teide National Park Canary Islands
2009 Tower of Hercules Galicia
2010 Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde Castilla y Leon
2011 Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana Balearic Islands
2012 Heritage of Mercury: Almadén and Idrija Castilla La Mancha

Not surprisingly many of these sites have cropped up in recent blog posts and newsletters as we’ve taken a look at some of Spain’s top tourist attractions and some of the country’s most impressive cathedrals.

My Spain “Bucket List”

Looking through the list I see 11 of the sites that I haven’t visited which are the following:

  • Garajonay National Park
  • Poblet Monastery
  • Las Médulas
  • San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries
  • Rock-Art of the Mediterranean Basin
  • San Cristóbal de La Laguna
  • Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco
  • Palmeral of Elche
  • Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí
  • Archaeological Site of Atapuerca
  • Heritage of Mercury: Almadén and Idrija

Hopefully, I’ll be able to tick off a few more this summer. Any thoughts on other sites that ought to be added to this list by UNESCO? Comments welcome below.

Reader Comments:

  1. daniel bloom says

    The town of Ronda — home of the bullfighting museum, the beautiful city high in the mountains and architecture, the walls the bridges. It is a secluded treasure.

  2. bonnie beerbower says

    I was surprised not to see Santa Maria de Monserrat Monastery in Catalonia on the UNESCO World Heritage list. I have visited many UNESCO sites around the world and it should definitely be on this list.

    • Gerry Kerkhof says

      Hi Bonnie

      I’d have to agree & suspect that we’ll see Montserrat included one day.



  3. Elly Hartog says

    Hi Gerry: The first one I was thinking about was El Puente Nuevo de Ronda and El Monasterio de Montserrat. and I was not the only one! How can we vote?

    Greetings from Holland


  4. Mike Deady says

    Hi Gerry

    As always, an interesting article. Just to clarify a few things. Even though the “La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia” is in the the centre of Valencia, it is part of the Comunidad of Valenciana, and NOT Valencia. Likewise with the “Palmeral De Elche” – in the province of Alicante and the Comunidad de Valenciana, and NOT Valencia.

    Finally, are you sure you have all the Spanish Heritage sites (UNESCO) listed here?

    The city of Elche, is renowned for having 2 UNESCO nominated World heritage sites, one for its Palmeral (Palm Groves – an oasis of over 200,000 Palm Trees) AND a second for its annual Mystery Play, (El Misteri d’Elx en Valenciana dialect), the Mystery Play of Elche, the only play in the world that is acted in its entirety within a temple, in this case the Basilica de Santa María, every year between 11th and 15th of August, and recognised by UNESCO in 2001.

    • Gerry Kerkhof says

      Hi Mike

      As a native English speaker I choose to use the name “Valencia” or “Valencia Region” to describe “La Comunidad Valenciana”. At times I’ve referred to the “Valencia Community” which seems very false. The same issue arises with “Madrid” as I don’t like to translate “Comunidad de Madrid” to “Madrid Community” so I tend to use “Madrid Region”. The top of the column says “Comunidad” so I doubt very much whether anyone will be confused.

      As for missing sites, there are 42 on this list and 44 in total. The missing two are not in Elche they are as follows:

      • 2007 – Mount Teide National Park
      • 2010 – Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde (shared with Portugal)

      They have now been added to the blog post.

      The UNESCO website simply refers to Palmeral de Elche (2000). The Mystery Play is recognised by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” rather than a World Heritage Site.



  5. Lim Hock Choon says

    Ronda of Malaga province is my choice. Besides the site of the second oldest bull ring, the houses and bridges with unique arches and mountainous scenes depict interesting tourist attractions. A great site.

  6. Eric Planas says

    I think Albarracín (Aragón) should be included for its other time and other worldliness.The sense of isolation, history, it´s hiking and cave art are all worthy of UNESCO STATUS.

    I went to Montserrat in 1999 and if they had not mutilated it as by the time I returned in 2006, I would say it was worth it. While still impressive and sublimely beautiful, they have overbuilt for the sake of mammon and destroyed a beautiful natural and architectural ensemble. Still, Montserrat is worth every second.

  7. Andrew Shanks says

    Sierra de Aracena National Park. A area of outstanding natural beauty, ‘olde’ Spain at its very best with regional cuisine, traditions and culture. Now made easier to explore with added, designated walks and trails.

  8. guillermo mendizábal says

    Hi Gerry: I would vote for Ronda, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and Casco Viejo in Bilbao.
    Saludos! Guillermo.

  9. Emlyn says

    Living in Murcia we have visited four of your list….have just returned from a great 4 days around Priego de Cordoba…..a lovely town full of culture and heritage which nobody seems to know about….and the tapas are superb…..perhaps not World Heritage material but great nevertheless.

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