Everyone knows that Spain is a land strewn with castles and fortresses which, albeit preserved to different degrees, tell the many centuries of history of a country filled with it.
According to the Asociación Española de Amigos de los Castillos (Spanish Association of Castle-Lovers) our country is blessed with some of the highest and most varied castle-density in the world, and likewise for fortresses, amounting to 10,000 catalogued constructions over the years, although it is suspected that the real number could be closer to 20,000. Doubtlessly, such a big number allows us to trace the whole country hopping from fortress to fortress.
It is complicated to retell the whole of such vast heritage, and even more difficult having to choose among them, but we are nonetheless going to enterprise a list with some of those who fascinate us the most. All of them are yours to visit during your Spanish trip:
We take off from Segovia, at the country's centre.
This wonderful example of Vth century Gothic-Mudejar Spanish architecture corresponds fully to what, in the popular mind, a castle ought to be: tall walls erected over a meandering river, with quaint battlements and a frightful moat protector of every peril. Here we find especially fascinating the mixture between military-purpose and the ornamental appearance, characteristic of a palatial house. Beautiful all around.
This castle can become a beautiful stop in your trip out of, or toward, Madrid, as well as a runaway if you are lodged at the capital. Whatever the case, you will enjoy its state of conservation.
The Castle of Loarre is a habitual in every ranking of best castles and fortresses countrywide, and deservedly so. Here we have one of the best-preserved, and most grandiose, Romanesque fortresses. A building with nigh 10 centuries of history, conceived by the king Sancho III of Pamplona (who practically owned the northern side of Spain during the Xth and XIth centuries) in order to protect his borders.
The Castle of Loarre is located in Huesca, close to the Pyrenees, over 1,000 meters above sea level, over limestone, to dissuade being sapped by tunnels. The arduous task of its construction took more than 60 years.
As a curiosity we shall mention that it was the scenario to Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven", starring Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons. We cannot but to agree with the director's choice: this castle seems to have been created to appear in movies.
The Plaster Room (aka the "Mudejar Room"), the King's Room, the San Jorge Chapel, the King's Gallery, the Gothic clerestory, the Renaissance main door, the watchtower... The medieval castle of Olite, in Navarra, was one of the most incredible enclaves countrywide during the XIIth and XIVth centuries, designed as court of the Kingdom of Navarra. In it, beyond the classical balls and banquets, jousts took place and even a zoo was arranged therein...
Even if many consider it a palace rather than a castle, we did not want to slip through the occasion of presenting to you this beautiful place of capricious shapes full of gardens, wonderful rooms, moats...
Today, beyond enjoying it through the remembrance of centuries past, we can immerse fully in the Middle Age therewith thanks to its Classical Theatre Festival, or during Olite's Medieval Festivities.
Not every castle or fortress was built in the northern side of the country. In fact, in the Andalusian province of Jaén, in the southeast, we find one of the biggest concentrations thereof countrywide. But we have nonetheless selected, in order to represent the south, a castle only 22 km. away from the wonderful Córdoba: the imposing Castle of Almodóvar del Río.
Its origins are traced back to the Muslim occupation, around 760, although the remains of a Roman castrum were found below it. Later, in 1240, the Christians conquered it and refurbished and enlargened it in posterior years. Luckily his owner, the Count of Torralva, decide it to save it from dereliction at the start of the XXth century and thanks to him we can still today visit this beautiful monument to history whose silhouette is familiar to "Game of Thrones" fans, given that the Highgarden scenes were filmed here.
Not every castle in our list was going to be in the north, neither all of them were going to conform to the classical fortress type. A good example thereof is the singular Castle of Bellver, a circular fortress, among the very few to be found in the European continent, with four attached towers and privileged views to Palma de Mallorca, its dock, its wonderful mountain range of Tramontana, and the island's central plain, all of them honouring "Bellver", the name which means "beautiful view" in Old Catalan.
Beyond its circular shape this castle is considered one of Spain's most beautiful and one of Europe's most original thanks, in part, to its fine, and particular to Mallorca, Gothic style from the early XIVth century. We should highlight its lookout, the surrounding moat and the fantastic Memorial Tower.
Just one and a half hours away from the city of Barcelona, Cardona is an enclave wherein, above all, its castle features prominently, so much so that it is considered Catalonia's most important.
Built toward the end of the IXth century, this impressive complex over a hill lived its heyday during the XVth due to the Cardona family who, back then, was the most important kingdom-wide after the king's.
Nowadays it contains the "Dukes of Cardona Lookout" and is considered, by the TripAdvisor community, as one of the 10 best European castles to overnight... even though, according to the guests themselves, in the room 712 paranormal phenomena occur in the shape of strange noises, taps which start flowing without human help, unsettling dreams... An incentive, after all, for suspense-lovers.
Despite the known unbreakable link between Segovia and its wondrous Roman Aqueduct, we ought not forget that in this city of Castile and Leon one of the most beautiful fortresses to be found countrywide was built: the Alcázar of Segovia.
Sharing honours with the previously-mentioned Castle of Loarre, this fortress was named by National Geographic as one of the 15 most beautiful castles worldwide. Additionally, it is said that Walt Disney drew inspiration from here to design its mythical Cinderella Castle, and it certainly was witness to many a historical event, as Isabel of Castille's exit to San Miguel's Church in order to be crowned, the wedding of Philipp II and Ana of Austria, which took place in the chapel, the many years Alfonso VIII lived here...
With this introduction, and the accompanying pictures, we shall add very little to this incredible Hispano-Arabic construction from 1122 which seems to be taken out from a fairy tale.