From Montserrat Monastery To Santiago De Cathedral : 10 Amazing Stops To Enjoy Spain

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Spain is a country with a very rich history where different cultures and religions have coexisted. This has left us a huge amount of heritage sites to enjoy.

The Muslims stayed and ruled in most of Spain for over 7 centuries. This is also the time it took the Christians to reconquer the land from North to south. Throughout that long process, castles were built, churches, monasteries and cathedrals were established and populations from both cultures had to learn to leave together. Jews also populated Spain at that time (before they were spelt in 1492) and they contributed too to the mix of cultures.

Today the most obvious trace of this history is seen in architecture. In this article, we will cover some of the most outstanding pieces of architecture that are witnesses of history.

1 – La Alhambra de Granada

Many famous people from around the world, including Bill Clinton, have mentioned there is no better sunset than the one overlooking the Alhambra palace from the Albaycin district. La Alhambra is a vast complex with a superb palace built by Moorish Kings in red stone. La Alhambra is Spain´s most visited tourist site. Architecture is shaped to its utmost beauty here. Inside its gardens Charles V, the Christian King built also his palace and a church, but most of the original Moorish palaces were preserved.

2 -The Mosque of Cordoba

Cordoba in Spain is today a mid´-sized city which is mainly famous thanks to its amazing Mosque. But Cordoba used to be Europe´s most important cultural hub in the middle ages. Medicine and all sorts of arts and science flourished here. The Mosque is a unique place: It is both a Mosque and a Christian Cathedral!

3 -Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

Few places on earth can pride themselves to be the end of a unique yearly pilgrimage. The Cathedral of Santiago is one of these places. Located on the far north-west coast of Spain, this is the place where apostle Santiago was buried. Hundred of thousands of pilgrims from around the world enjoy “El Camino” every year. El Camino can be enjoyed from different corners of Europe and today it constitutes a well-organised network of roads where pilgrims can find hostels and catering. At the very end of El Camino Santiago de Compostela awaits. The last stamp on the pilgrim´s book is set close to the Cathedral and the famous Plaza del Obradoiro located next to the Cathedral. This is a place filled with positive vibrations for sure! Once the Camino is finished, pilgrims usually enjoy local seafood and the superb Albarino white wines produced in this region of Spain.

4 -Montserrat monastery

The monastery of Montserrat is located less than one hour drive from Barcelona in Northeast Spain. This monastery is also a very important pilgrimage centre and one of Spain´s top tourist destinations. This is a place full of legend and miracles and daily visitors arrive today in large numbers to enjoy the Monastery and its amazing sight. The mountains have very strange round shapes in Montserrat as if nature had sculptured them for the pleasure of today´s visitors. Many of these visitors enjoy a day visit to Montserrat with a wine tour. Wine has been very important in the Christian religion and in Spain.

5 -La Sagrada Familia

The top icon of Barcelona and one of Spain´s top tourist attractions, this unfinished temple is a huge sculpture altogether. The original architect, Antoni Gaudi, had a style easy to recognise, but he passed away too early to see his main piece of art finished. Private and public efforts through the last decades have made it possible for the building to grow and architects have tried to stay loyal to the original plans of Gaudi. If there is one place in Spain where modern art and religion go hand in hand it is La Sagrada Familia. Most locals from Barcelona do not visit today La Sagrada Familia. This is a place mainly for tourists. This would not however apply to Montserrat, which is a local´s favourite and a place many families visit once a year. A typical weekend could combine a visit to the monastery and a short detour to enjoy a wine country and local gastronomy in the nearby region of Penedes (famous for the sparkling wine called cava)

 6 -Seville´s Cathedral

We travel back to Andalusia in Southern Spain. If both La Alhambra and the Mosque in Cordoba are the two top highlights in the region, we should not forget to mention the amazing cathedral of Seville.  This Cathedral, the second-largest in Europe after the Vatican, used to be a Mosque (like it is the case for many churches in Spain) The most famous component of this massive temple is its tower, La Giralda, which used to be the minaret of the old mosque. It was built in such a way that horses could get on top of the building to speed up climbing it! Today, the beauty of this massive cathedral is not easy to grasp from the square where it sits. Taverns serve tapas and local fino wines in the terrace where tourists relax. The most amazing views are enjoyed from roof terraces in a few buildings located not far from the Cathedral. The views of the building are breathtaking.

 7 -Covadonga

We travel back North, to the region of Asturias. One could easily argue that the landscape here resembles more green Ireland or Scotland than to the traditional postcards of sunny Spain. Covadonga is the place where the Reconquering process started on the VIII Century. A famous battle took place here and the Christian army stopped the Moorish troops in these mountains. A temple was built in a unique spot and it is enjoyed today by many visitors who pay tribute to the Virgin of Covadonga. Food is great in this part of Spain

 8 -El Pilar in Zaragoza (Saragogossa)

Zaragoza is a midsized city on the way from Madrid to Barcelona. Zaragoza is famous for two main pieces of architecture. La Aljaferia is the most remarkable Moorish palace in northern Spain. It was then transformed into a Benedictine monastery and a palace for Spanish Kings. But the city top attraction is “El Pilar” as locals refer to it cathedral named after the Virgin of El Pilar. The main feature of this huge temple located next to the Ebro river is its numerous domes and its four tall corner towers. But the top highlight for most visitors is the bombs that were thrown to the temple from planes during the Spanish civil war and which never exploded. The bombs are displayed at the temple as a symbol of no violence and of miraculous intervention.

9 -Monasteries of Yuso and Suso

These two monasteries are amongst Spain´s most famous ones. The monasteries are famous due to their beauty and the fact they are located in the Rioja region, famous for their wines (as a matter of fact most visitors to the monasteries combine a visit to the monasteries with a wine tour to the nearby wineries). But their most important treasure is the books its library holds, with the first written texts in the Spanish language. Any visitor can today enjoy these amazing pieces of art (the books are simply beautiful)

10 – Smaller temples scattered nearly all over the country

There are many other amazing temples in Spain. Amongst the most amazing ones are the smaller crypts and churches at locations of extreme beauty like the Ermita de San Frutos or the church of San Juan de Gaztelugaxte (a place that has recently become famous due to its appearance in Game of Thrones) 

One of our favorite places in the country is the fountain of wine at bodegas irache. This winery offers a glass of wine to pilgrims that walk El Camino. A gesture of gratitude and fellowship most pilgrims highly appreciate! We trust you have enjoyed this route through some of Spain´s top attractions. More information on the Unesco heritage sites in Spain can be found in this link. 

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