7 Spectacular Castles in Spain
Most of the castles in Spain throughout the medieval and pre-Reconquista era were built for strategic defense. It was in the protective interests of both Christian and Muslim rulers to bestow border fiefs to subjugate aristocrats for one express purpose – to erect and establish fortress manors (some more impressive than others). With that in mind, here are seven in particular that stand out as exemplary in Spain to this day.
Belmonte Castle strikes a dramatic pose from Cerro de San CristÃ³bal in the province of Zaragoza. The fortress was commissioned in the 15th century by Don Juan Pacheco, Marquis of Villena. Built in Gothic-MudÃ©jar style, the pentagonal castle features six cylindrical towers, a triangular courtyard, regal chambers and a balustrade that connects the fortress to the town below.
Ponferrada Templar Castle
Ponferrada, the last town before the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) pilgrimage route concludes in Galicia’s Santiago de Compostela, contains the remarkable 11th century Templar Castle. The Knights Templar built the distinctive 16,000 m2 fortress to provide asylum and protection to peregrinos (pilgrims) en route to Santiago. After the order’s goodwill and royal patronage ran out in the early 1300s, the castle was subject to a long tug-of-war custody dispute. Restoration work on the extraordinary structure endures in Ponferrada to this day.
Coca Castle is smack between two exquisite tourist destinations in the towns of Segovia and Valladolid and a vital exemplar of MudÃ©jar architecture. The 15th century fortress castle is a magnificent landmark and part of Spain’s national patrimony. Built at the behest of Alonso de Fonseca, archbishop of Santiago de Compostela and later, Toledo, the brick castle is nonpareil and remarkably well-preserved. The popular tourist attraction now houses a forestry school.
Castle of the Mota
Castillo de La Mota is a site of paramount cultural and historic significance in the town of Medina del Campo in Valladolid province. The immense, formidable fortress boasts several phenomenal features, from a stalwart central tower to a deliberate, strategic trapezoid plan. While original sections of the 13th century castle remain, most of Castillo de La Mota as it looms today dates back to the 14th and 15th century. Every architectural detail of the grand landmark evokes the majesty of a truly great and important castle.
Castle of the Mendoza
The pinnacle point of interest in tiny Manzanares el Real is the best opportunity tourists to nearby Madrid have to visit a spectacular fortress. The Castle of the Mendoza was a vital nexus of military might and affluence for some of the most influential power brokers in late 15th century Spain. A memorable fusion of Romanesque, Gothic and MudÃ©jar styles, the castle was a notable backdrop in the Hollywood classic El Cid, with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren.
Royal Palace of Olite
The Palacio de los Reyes de Navarra de Olite, dominates the bucolic community of Olite. The opulent fortress-cum-castle was the main seat of royal power for the Navarre monarchy for hundreds of years. Built up between the 13th century and 15th century, first as a strategic fortification and later, as a palace, the incredible landmark fell into pitiful disrepair in subsequent years. Happily, vast 20th century restoration efforts set the exceptional castle back on a venerable track.
AlcÃ¡zar of Segovia
The AlcÃ¡zar (Castle) of Segovia is a lynchpin landmark in the inimitable UNESCO World Heritage town of 55,000 people. With so much to see in the Madrid-adjacent municipality, the AlcÃ¡zar and Segovia Aqueduct surely draw the lion’s share of tourists. First built as a strategic Arab fortress, the castle was later rebuilt by King Alfonso VIII in the 12th century. Subsequent ambitious renovations took place in the 13th century and 15th century and indeed, each gave rise and shape to the matchless castle that millions of visitors now enjoy today. Few fortress castles in Europe, let alone Spain, compete with Segovia’s brilliant AlcÃ¡zar. The stone gem ranks as one of the most important historic sites in the country and is easily accessible from hotels in Madrid.