Churches and Cathedrals to Visit in Spain

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Full of history and amazing architectural sites like Montjuic, Alhambra and Alcazar, Spain is also a land of magnificent cathedrals, some dating as far back as the 10th or 11th century. Although I’ve seen quite a few European churches, the only cathedral and churches I visited in Spain were on the island of Mallorca when I spent a month visiting my brother Aaron and his wife. But to get my Spanish bucket list ready for the next visit, here is a list of amazing Spanish churches and cathedrals put together by my friends and siblings.

1. Burgos Cathedral Or Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos

By Anna from Spain Inspired

Exterior of Burgos Cathedral.
Burgos Cathedral in Spain
By Anna from Spain Inspired

When plotting out your Spanish vacation, consider slipping away for a weekend visit from Barcelona or Madrid to Burgos. This historic city is home to the incredible Burgos Cathedral, a site that’s as rich in history as it is in architectural beauty.

Officially known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos and founded in 1221, it’s a shining example of Gothic architecture. This starts as you approach the Cathedral, with the intricate façade and stunning filigree spires that greet you being truly awe-inspiring.

Inside, you’re treated to an array of art and incredible architecture that stand as a monument to the artistic and cultural flourishing of the medieval period. Notably, the chapel houses the tomb of El Cid, the legendary Castilian knight, adding a layer of historical intrigue to your visit.

Burgos is just a few hours by train or car from Barcelona or Madrid. making it easily accessible from the hustle and bustle of Spain’s major metropolises. Spending a weekend here gives you ample time to explore the history and beauty of the Cathedral, while also enjoying the relaxed pace of life in this smaller city.

2. Palma Cathedral or La Seu or Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma

By Aaron from The Winged Fork

Exterior view of La Seu or Palma Cathedral.
La Seu or Palma Cathedral
By Aaron from The Winged Fork

The La Seu, also known as Palma Cathedral or Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, is a Gothic Cathedral constructed by King Jaume of Aragon in 1229 following his miraculous survival from a storm at sea. It’s renowned for being home to the world’s largest rose window at 13.3 meters, which exquisitely filters light into the cathedral. Over 1200 pieces of stained glass covering over 100 square meters, it’s a captivating site. If you visit in the early hours between 8 AM and 9 AM, you’ll get to see the refleciton of the main rose window below the opposite rose window forming a beautiful figure 8.

The cathedral is also a prominent destination on cultural and historical excursions of Palma de Mallorca because it contains pieces of art from Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque times, almost like a visual calendar. It gets crowded too and the wait can be hours long, so skip-the-line tickets might come in handy.

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We were based in Majorca for 5 years, so we explored a lot of it on our own, from enormous underground caves to snorkelling and kayaking to hiking the torrent de Pareis more. So naturally we visited this 13th century Gothic Cathedral on our own too. But there are many day trips available that take you here and also to the other top attractions in Majorca.

3. Barcelona Cathedral or  Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia

By Elisa from World in Barcelona

Architecture of Barcelona Cathedral.
Cathedral of Barcelona
By Elisa from World in Barcelona

Barcelona Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona and one of the city’s most important landmarks. It is located in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic), which is part of the Old Town.

Barcelona’s Cathedral is a medieval Gothic building dedicated to Saint Eulalia, Barcelona’s former patron saint. Her tomb is located in the Cathedral’s crypt.

The construction of the Cathedral took two centuries and was completed in 1420. However, the main façade, in Neo-Gothic style, dates from the 19th century.

There are many interesting things to see inside the Cathedral, like the Christ of Lepanto, the Crypt, and the Gothic cloister. It is also interesting to walk around the building, outside, populated by terrifying gargoyles.

It is built in Gothic style, and its imposing presence invites you into the Medieval area of the city where time has had little effect on Gothic architecture.

4. Santuary de la Mare de Deu del Puig, Pollenca

Abby from Abby’s Hearth and The Winged Fork

View from top of Puig de Maria in Mallorca.
View from the Puig de Maria

Just a bit South of Pollenca, this visit will leave you gasping, literally. Well, it depends, if you walk at a gingerly pace like we did, you might make it to the top of the Puig de Maria refreshed by the smell of pine and oak from the surrounding woods. There are no chairs to rest en route, although we did find a few good rocks to sit on. (Make sure to go before 10 AM to avoid the crowds.) Once you reach the top you’re rewarded with lovely views of the Cap de Formentor, Pollenca village at the bottom and more.

The Puig de Maria or Mary’s Mountain is a 330 meter high hill where nuns settled in a stone convent called the Santuari de la Mare de Déu del Puig. A Gothic chapel provides respite from the heat of the sun and a chance to pray. Once you’ve done that, take a peek at recitals or events that might be going on onsite, or grab a bite at the small restaurant that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday except Monday. It was so hot in Mallorca the day we went, we just had popsicles and apples. For those who want to spend the night, accommodation is available at fairly cheap rates, but keep in mind that it’s monastery style, so very basic and loos are shared.

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5. Valencia Cathedral or Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia

By Liam from Travels Around Spain

Gothic architecture of Valencia Cathedral.
Valencia Cathedral
By Liam from Travels Around Spain

Valencia Cathedral is one of Valencia’s must-see attractions. Built between the 13th and the 15th centuries, the cathedral is in the heart of Valencia’s Old Town. The cathedral is mostly Gothic style with an impressive nave and the Miguelete Tower, a bell tower offering panoramic views of Valencia.

Valencia Cathedral’s most interesting artefact, however, is its Holy Chalice. Many believe it is the true Holy Grail, used by Jesus Christ in the Last Supper and is one of the cathedral’s most prized treasures.

The chalice has been used by various popes visiting Valencia and was reportedly given to the cathedral by King Alfonso V of Aragon back in the 1400s. Arabic inscriptions identify it as a chalice from the 1st century around the time of Jesus.

Another interesting relic is the Hand of Saint Vincent. One of the patron saints of Valencia, Saint Vincent was martyred in the 4th century. His mummified hand has been preserved as a holy relic and now rests in a glass case being the main altar.

6. Sagrada Familia or Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família

By Rachel of Barcelona Uncovered

Inside Sagrada Familia in Spain.
Sagrada Familia in Spain
By Rachel of Barcelona Uncovered

It’s unlikely that you’ll find a traveler that doesn’t know about Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, for good reason. Famous architect and artist, Antoni Gaudi’s spectacular creation is not only known for its beauty and splendor, but also for its never-ending construction.

The most visited site in Barcelona has been under construction for 140 years, and seems set on continuing to make itself better and better.

Many visitors make the mistake of thinking the outside is the grandeur of this church – don’t be one of them. While the outside is quite a sight, the inside will take your breath away. Don’t miss the stained-glass windows and endless light shining in at Sagrada Familia if you’re ever in Spain!

7. Capel de Nostra Senyora de la Esperança

By Abby

Bells on the terrace of Our Lady of the Sea.
Ringing the bells is fun

The small village of Capdepera is just a few miles from Cala Mesquida and Torrent de Pareis. The king issued a decree in the 13th century to build a fortress to protect locals from pirates. This fortress was called Castell de Capdepera and it’s believed that around 125 families lived inside its walls until the 16th century. It was then converted to a military fortress and the villagers were relocated outside. They’re still there to this day.

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The Eglesia de Esperenza, was built in three stages. When you enter you see the oldest chapel where the Gothic orange wood carving of the image of Holy Christ is still present. The church of Saint Joan was added in the 16th century, the Our Lady of Hope Sanctuary was added during the 18th century.

Painting of Our Lady of the Sea inside Capdepera chapel.
Painting of Our Lady of the Sea

Anyway, the story goes that during a siege by Muslim invaders, the villagers all hid inside the castle and placed and image of Our Lady of Hope on the battlements. Suddenly a supernatural fog appeared and drove the Muslim invaders away. This miracle is recorded inside the castle and is celebrated every year at the annual fiesta on 18th December. See the picture of Mary in the church above. The fun bit though is going above the church to ring the bells on the terrace and see the views of surrounding Mallorcan hills.

8. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral or Santiago de Compostela Arch cathedral Basilica

By Alison from Alison On Foot

Exterior Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain.
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain
By Alison from Alison On Foot

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela is a must see, and not just for those who’ve arrived in Santiago on foot after walking the Camino de Santiago.

Standing in Plaza del Obradoiro the cathedral is said to be the final resting place of St James which is why it plays such an important role in the history of the Camino.

The cathedral is free to enter and, once inside, you can’t help but be wowed by its ornate interior. You can visit the tomb of St James beneath the altar, as well as climb the steps behind the altar to see the small statue of the apostle. If you visit the cathedral to attend a mass you may be fortunate to see the botafumeiro, one of the largest incense burners in the world, in action.

You can also book a guided tour which includes a visit to the rooftop which shouldn’t be missed if you want a bird’s eye view of Santiago.

This is a work in progress list of the must-visit Spanish cathedrals. There are many that still need to be added. If you would like to contribute, ping abby@abbyshearth.com

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Pinterest images of Burgos Cathedral and Palma Cathedral.
Pinterest images of Valencia Cathedral and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain.

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