“Traveling outgrows its motives. It soon proves sufficient in itself. You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you-or unmaking you.” – Nicolas Bouvier, The Way of the World.

With almost 41 buildings listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Spain attracts numerous visitors who wish to discover its history and experience Spanish culture throughout the year. Be it Cordoba, Barcelona, Madrid, or Seville, Spanish towns know exactly how to enchant you with their buildings. From the Alhambra in Granada to Sagrada Familia, these are the top 20 buildings you should definitely see when visiting Spain.

La Sagrada Família, Barcelona

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La Sagrada Familia_©www.sagradafamilia.barcelona-tickets.com

The Sagrada Familia Basilica, located in the centre of Barcelona, is one of Gaudi’s most famous architectural achievements. The building’s construction began in 1882 and is anticipated to be completed in 2026. The Roman Catholic church of La Sagrada Familia, with its tactile, organic shape, is one of Barcelona’s most recognized sights. 

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La Sagrada Familia(Interior)_©Alessandro Colle/Shutterstock

With its strong flying buttresses and twisting towers rising over the city, it is an unusual sight in its industrial context. In reality, tourism funds are being used to support the building. The recent economic upswing has enabled the monument’s construction to be funded.

The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

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The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao_©www.guggenheim-bilbao.eus

Frank Gehry, a well-known architect, built the Guggenheim Contemporary Art Museum. This art gallery in the heart of the Basque Country first opened its doors in 1997 and features works by well-known artists such as Richard Serra and Jeff Koons. The architecture is also stunning. The structure is constructed of stone, titanium, and glass, and it attracts visitors just as much as the art it houses. This modern landmark has helped elevate Bilbao’s standing.

CaixaForum, Madrid

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CaixaForum _©Ruben Perez Bescos

This stunning architectural beauty in the centre of Spain’s capital city is unmissable. The CaixaForum in Madrid is worth seeing because of the corroded steel coating on its head. It rises tall alongside a famous vertical-garden facade among locals and visitors. The cultural centre is organized into two levels: above and below ground. A covered plaza was created at the entry-level to accommodate guests and passersby. The building was renovated by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron and originally housed the Medioda Electric Company before being transformed into a cultural centre. Several people halt in their tracks to admire the edifice, which stands pleasantly across from the Prado Museum.

Alhambra Palace

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Alhambra Palace _©dkatana

The architectural tour of Spain would be incomplete without a visit to the magnificent Alhambra Palace in Granada. This well-known medieval stronghold on a hill was erected in 889 AD and renovated into a palace in 1333. The Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most visited landmarks in Spain and one of the greatest examples of Islamic and Moorish architecture. The palace is especially lovely in the late evenings when the sunset turns the walls crimson. Many visitors come here for the spectacular views because of its strategic location above the city of Granada.

Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion

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Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion _©zaha hadid architects

The Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion’s unique and sustainable design easily hits the sweet spot for architecture geeks all over Spain. This massive structure serves as a pedestrian bridge in Aragon’s capital. The bridge, which sits atop the Ebro River, has a dynamic shape that mimics the natural airflow of the climate.

The bridge pavilion, designed by British architect Zaha Hadid, won the Pritzker Architecture Prize for its complex spaces and strong visual characteristics. It is considered one of Spain’s most valuable architectural works because it seamlessly combines the two typologies of engineering infrastructure and architectural elements.

Salamanca University

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Salamanca University_©www.iberian-escapes.com

Salamanca University in Spain has Baroque, Gothic, and Plateresque architecture. Due to its stunning design and intricate stonework, it is considered one of the most beautiful universities in the world.

The university is regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in Europe, as well as, in Spain. Salamanca University was the first educational institution to be given the title La Universidad in 1254. The library is visually appealing, with an ornate facade and 160,000 books.

Hotel Marqués de Riscal

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Hotel Marqués de Riscal_©guide.michelin.com

From a distance, the Hotel Marqués de Riscal appears to be a riot of different coloured ribbons. Moving closer, the pink, gold, and silver titanium sweeping across the top of the building is breathtaking. This hotel, designed by Frank Gehry, is a tourist attraction in the Rioja region and has some of the most unique architecture in Spain.

According to the architect, the facade’s design reflects the winery’s and the region’s core elements. Pink represents Rioja, silver represents cork, and gold mesh represents the Marqués de Riscal bottles. A full-body spa, accommodations, a vito culture museum, and a wine shop are all part of the five-star hotel. Vinos Herederos del Marques de Riscal is one of the region’s oldest wineries.

Metropol Parasol

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Metropol Parasol_©www.andalucia.org

The world’s largest wooden structure can be found in Seville, Andalucia. Metropol Parasol, a one-of-a-kind social space, is quickly becoming the city’s newest landmark. The building is easily identified by the flowing patterns of timber that shade Plaza de la Encarnacion.

The Metropol Parasol is a four-story structure made up of six wooden parasols. Its primary function is to protect the archaeological site while also creating an impressive mushroom lattice across the area. It also has a vantage point from which to view Seville’s old quarter and surrounding areas.

The basement features a view of the archaeology site, a marketplace, a restaurant, and a charming square. The timbers used were coated with a waterproof polyurethane to withstand the changing weather.

City of Arts and Sciences

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City of Arts and Sciences_©papagnoc

Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences is one of the city’s finest architectural examples. Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela designed the futuristic architectural site, which spans 350,000 square meters. The infrastructure reflects the spirit of the twenty-first century, with an artistic social hub, science museum, cinema, aquarium, and much more. In Spain, it is a revolutionary architecture that emphasizes sustainability and eco-friendly materials. The planetarium, a science museum, a botanical garden, an oceanographic museum, an art and music space, a bridge, and a covered square are among the structures.

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Author

Arushi is an architect and interior designer who loves to travel and explore new places. She believes each place has its own story to tell. Her passion for history, culture and climate and how they all are related to architecture intrigues and motivates her to fulfil her goal to travel across the world.

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