Spain is one of the countries in the world with the highest number of heritage cities and the third greatest number of World Heritage sites. Its monuments from different times in history are also representative of its rich culture.
The Spanish World Heritage Cities Group, an association of 15 cities whose monumental sites have been awarded the World Heritage designation by the UNESCO, works towards this cultural preservation. Created in 1993, it constitutes of the cities of Alcalá de Henares, Avila, Baeza, Cáceres, Cordoba, Cuenca, Ibiza, Merida, Salamanca, San Cristóbal de la Laguna, Santiago de Compostela, Segovia, Tarragona, Toledo and Úbeda. Other than protecting the heritage, the group also promotes certain ways of life that such historic city centres require. Here is an insight into five of these heritage cities and their architectural gems.
A medieval city, Avila is known for its city wall and the old town and churches found outside it. These structures are on the UNESCO World Heritage list and are said to be one of the best preserved structures in Spain.
Fortresses, Renaissance palaces and medieval town squares, Cáceres houses monuments from different times. Its old town has the stature of a world heritage site. The architecture of these sites is a blend of Roman, Islamic, Northern Gothic and Italian Renaissance styles and reflects its history, depicting battles between Moors and Christians. Of the around 30 towers from the Muslim period, the Torre del Bujaco is the most famous.
Cordoba was a major centre of world power and culture under Muslim rule and is thus home to one of the Caliphate’s most spectacular works of architecture: Mezquita or the Great Mosque. Although the multi-arched mosque, a heritage site, gave the city a prominent stature, today Córdoba is much more than it.
This city appears to be suspended in mid air. Its unusual casas colgadas (hanging houses) are an example of how man can live in harmony with nature. Dating from the 16th century, Cuenca’s historic centre is a world heritage site. It is notable for its skyline of massive rotundas and soaring steeples.
The Roman theatre and the amphitheatre, which are both world heritage, are a legacy of the Roman Empire and two of the many Roman ruins in Mérida. An ancient city, it is located in the Extremadura region of western Spain, an area known for its dry summers and rainy winters.
Pictures courtesy-Instituto de Turismo de España