Top five World Heritage sites

Nov 13 2015

Top five World Heritage sites

If you’re looking for places to visit in Spain then you should consider visiting some of their amazing World Heritage sites. With a country full of cultural heritage it can sometimes be daunting deciding which ones to visit. These are what we consider to be the top five Spanish World Heritage Sites.

• Old Town of Careers … It is clear that Spain has had many occupiers and rulers over the years. They have ranged from the Romans, Moors, European Christians and many more. Very few locations can say that they have hosted as many rival factions as the Old Town of Cáceres. It’s thought that the city was originally founded by the Romans during their occupation of Spain, and it’s even believed that people were settling in the area of Cáceres in prehistoric times!

• Today the city draws people from far and wide with a mix of influences from all of the different cultures which are reflected in the artwork and architecture found throughout the city. Whether it’s the 30 Arabic defence towers, or the one remaining Roman arch in the city; visitors will be humbled by the cities beauty and depth of history. It’s easy for people to lose themselves in the cities narrow maze of streets, churches, sights and sounds. You can even walk to the top of some of the towers and enjoy the stunning panoramic views that stretch for miles. It’s considered to be one of the best examples of a city from the medieval and renaissance period in the world.

• Even if the history of the city offers you little interest, its beauty alone and amazing selection of local restaurants and cafes will be enough to fulfil a day trip for anyone. However, this city has so much to offer that it cannot be missed by anyone staying in the area. This really is a city brimming with things to do and as such makes it the number one on our list of world heritage sites in Spain you have to visit.

• This Cave of Altamira and Palaeolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain … This is the name given to a group of 18 caves located in northern Spain across three regions: Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1985, these caves contain various cave paintings, mostly depicting in great detail, wild animals. These paintings date back to the Palaeolithic era, somewhere between 13000 and 22000 years ago. Due to the depth of the caves and the regional climate, these pieces of art and their surroundings have been extremely well preserved and are still in good condition to date. However, to preserve the original cave it’s no longer accessible to the general public, though there is still plenty on offer.

• Visitors are welcome to explore a the ‘Palaeolithic Art Museum’ built into the limestone caves, right next to the original cave that was discovered by archaeologists in Altamira. Although the original cave has been closed now, the museum is an exact replica of the original from the ancient cave paintings, to the various objects scattered about, giving an idea of the lifestyle and practices of these ancient people. If, like myself, you enjoy learning about the cultures that came before us this is a must see. If, however, you are just looking for an interesting day out with a cooler temperature then this also ticks the boxes.

• The works of Antoni Gaudi … Antoni Gaudí (1852 – 1926) was a Spanish born architect from Reus, Catalonia. Although Gaudí began his career designing lampposts for the Plaça Reial in Barcelona, he quickly began to build recognition and was soon offered much more ‘significant’ work. With a variety of influences, such as oriental arts, Islamic arts, Gothic Revival, Moorish monuments and many more, Gaudí became renowned as one of Spain’s most influential modernist architects. His work was considered to be extremely personal and emotive and is as relevant today as it was when it was first constructed.

• Not only was Gaudí’s work considered creatively outstanding, it’s also claimed that it has had a profound influence on architecture and its surrounding technologies. Seven of Gaudí’s buildings were officially made World Heritage sites in 1984. These buildings include the ‘Park Güell, the Palau Güell and the Casa Milà; and in 2005, the Nativity facade, the crypt and the apse of the Sagrada Família, the Casa Vicens and the Casa Batlló in Barcelona, together with the crypt of the Colònia Güell in Santa Coloma de Cervelló.’Antoni Gaudí – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. These seven pieces of work are recognised as World Heritage sites and are all located in Barcelona, so if you’re looking for Spanish culture on a trip, these quite frankly cannot be ignored.

• The Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida … The modern day city of Mérida in Spain is one of the best places to go to see extremely well preserved, maintained and reconstructed Roman structures. The city was founded in 25BC Augusta Emerita following the Roman campaign against Spain. At the time the city was used to house men from the Roman legions who had served their time in the army and had retired. The city then became the capital of the Roman region in that area of Spain known as Lusitania.

• After becoming the capital, the city then became the base for the Roman Empire as they sought to rule over the whole Iberian Peninsula, launching numerous war campaigns to take the rest of the peninsular with military force. The Roman invasion brought all of Iberia under Roman rule and was divided into six Roman provinces. The whole of the Iberian peninsula was named Hispania which is thought to be where the modern name ‘Spain’ derives from.

• As a result of the Roman occupation of Spain, the country is littered with historic remains. Mérida is no exception, boasting an array of Roman buildings and structures. The ruins in this city includes an amphitheatre, the bridge over over the Guadiana River, a theatre and many more structures. If you like exploring history and visiting real life examples, then a trip to Mérida will have plenty to offer. Mérida is in fact one of the biggest archaeological sites in Spain. If you would like to see more Roman monuments in Spain there are plenty more across the country from ‘The Tower of Hercules’ to ‘The Roman Walls’ of Lugo.

• Route of Santiago de Compostela … It’s widely believed that Santiago de Compostela is the final resting place of St James the Apostle. People take the Christian pilgrimage from across Europe to travel to Santiago de Compostela to visit the tomb and pay their respects. This was one of the most important pilgrimages of the medieval era and was taken by Christians from across all social classes. There are many routes that people take leading from all over Spain and Europe to the town of Compostela in Galicia, north west Spain. The cathedral that holds tomb of St James in Compostela (where the pilgrimage ends) is also a World Heritage site, as well as the route that leads to it. This pilgrimage offered a great opportunity for the exchange of ideas and values between the occupants of Iberia and the rest of Europe in the middle ages.

• The main route runs from the border between France and Spain and leads to Santiago de Compostela. The route has been made a World Heritage site as it’s claimed that it has mass cultural importance, as the route is full of buildings and structures built specifically for the pilgrimage. There is evidence along almost all of the route pointing to the pilgrimage, including religious artwork and artefacts. It’s clear that the route holds special importance to many from the Centuries of use and the evidence left behind as a result.

• There are also many hostel-type buildings on the route who accommodate the travellers on their way, charging very little to weary travellers. The Scallop shell is the symbol of the pilgrimage, so if you see that on a hostel wall (or any other for that matter) you may find it’s directly related to the journey. If you aren’t interested in walking the whole route you may wish to see if the route passes nearby where you’re staying (generally in northern Spain) and see what you can find. If you’re too shy to ask about, remember that the Scallop shells may lead the way to something interesting.

To explore more about Galicia, in the heart of green Spain, visit Galicia Guide for more information.

Artuicle by David Johns