Spain boasts 48 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ranking it third in the world after China and Italy, both of which have 55. They range from monuments, cities, open spaces, excavations, and archaeological sites, to various Camino routes, which were added to the World Heritage list in 1993 (the French Way or Camino Francés) and 2015 (the Ways through Northern Spain or Caminos del Norte de España). Image shows the Real Colegiata de Santa María church in Roncesvalles on the Camino Francés, considered one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture in Navarra.
Many of these sites overlap with various Camino routes, meaning travelers can make the pilgrimage with the added bonus of seeing exceptional monuments along the way. One such example is the Santa María de Eunate church, which is located where the Somport and Roncesvalles Ways meet, in the Ilzarbe Valley (Navarra).
Lugo Cathedral (1129)Regional Government of Galicia
Let’s take a look at some of these places and the year they became a UNESCO site.
Seville Cathedral, Alcázar, and Archivo General de Indias (1987)
The cathedral is one of the world's greatest Gothic architecture monuments. It was built between 1401 and 1507, on the site of an old Almohad mosque, whose minaret known as la Giralda is still standing today. It is found at the beginning of the Vía de la Plata on the Mozarabic Way.
Mérida archeological site (1993)
The Roman city Augusta Emérita was founded in 25 BCE. by Emperor Augustus to give land to soldiers fighting in wars. As a site of undeniable strategic value, it soon grew, becoming one of the most significant architectural ensembles of Roman art in the world. It is located on the Vía de la Plata on the Mozarabic Way.
Old City of Cáceres (1986)
City of Roman origin (35 BC) that then became Arab until 1229. It was from here that several explorers set out for the American lands discovered in 1492. Cáceres has continued to grow, becoming a melting pot of different cultures providing a history lesson without even leaving the streets It is located on the Vía de la Plata on the Mozarabic Way.
The old city of Salamanca (1988)
Originally of Roman origin, then Muslim, Salamanca was granted the Estudio General, royal charter of foundation, by Alfonso IX, and soon became one of the most important and oldest Universities in Europe. It grew under protection of military and religious orders and became Spain's major cultural hub for centuries. It is located on the Vía de la Plata on the Mozarabic Way.
San Millán de Yuso and Suso Monasteries (1997)
Suso monastery was a hermitage in the 6th century. Later, in the 10th century, its monks founded another monastery further down the hill, called Yuso monastery. It was dedicated to San Millán de la Cogolla and housed the Glosas Emilianenses on which the first words of Castilian Spanish were written. It is located next to the French Way in La Rioja.
Burgos Cathedral (1984)
One of Spain’s most significant Gothic monuments. Construction began in 1221, on a Romanesque temple, which gradually evolved into the new architectural style. This style made its way over from France, along the Camino. It was consecrated in 1260. It is known for its ornately decorated openwork spires, which rise to an impressive height of 275 feet (84 m). It is located on the French Way.
Leon Cathedral Stained Glass (13th century)Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the St. James Way
León Cathedral (2011)
The greatest example of stained-glass window art is found at León Cathedral. The last restoration meant that 6,000 square feet (1,800 sq m) of surface area now fills the enormous naves with color. The Pulchra Leonina was built over an old Romanesque temple at the end of the 13th century. It is located on the French Way.
Vizcaya Bridge (2006)
It is a transporter bridge found between the cities of Portugalete and Guecho, stretching across the Bilbao estuary. It was built in between 1887 and 1893. It was the first to be built using suspension bridge technology. It is 525 feet (160 m) long and 200 feet (61 m) high. The Northern Way runs alongside it.
Monuments of Oviedo and the kingdom of Asturias (1985, 1998)
Santa María del Naranco is one of the most complete examples of styles of Asturian or Ramirense style within the pre-Romanesque style. It was originally a palace and was completed in 842. It is located on the Northern Way.
Tower of Hercules (2nd Century)Regional Government of Galicia
Tower of Hercules (2009)
A lighthouse of Roman origin which was built in the 1st century. Measuring 180 feet (55 m) high, it is the oldest functioning lighthouse. It was originally 120 feet (36 m) high and was raised 60 feet (19 m) when it underwent remodeling work in the 18th century. It is located at one of the headwaters of the English Way (Camino Inglés).
Roman wall of Lugo: Mosqueira Tower (260-310)Regional Government of Galicia
Roman Wall of Lugo (2000)
The Roman Wall of Lugo surrounds what was Lucus Augusti, a city founded in 13 BCE. Measuring 7,400 feet (2,266 m) in length and boasting 71 towers, it has managed to remain naturally integrated into the city's growth through the centuries, preserved in its entirety. You can walk the whole wall. It is on the Original Way (Camino Primitivo).
Rúa de San Pedro in Santiago de Compostela (2021)Regional Government of Galicia
The old city of Santiago de Compostela (1985)
The old city of Santiago originated from the discovery of the Apostle Saint James’ tomb in the 9th century. It was formerly a fort and later, a small Roman city. After the construction of the first cathedral, Santiago gradually transformed into an important administrative and cultural center. It is here that all the Caminos converge.
The Obradoiro Square (1738-1750) by Fernando Casas NovoaRegional Government of Galicia
The Plaza del Obradoiro in Santiago de Compostela is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world, flanked by the Cathedral of Santiago, the Hostal de los Reyes Católocos, the Rajoi Palace (seat of the Galician Government), the Town Hall and the University. A collection of all the powers and services the city has to offer.